Acrylic Self Portraits and Fair Use Laws

This project is a great way to introduce some basics about acrylic paint and hook them for future painting projects.  My main goal is to practice tints, shades, and color mixing.  It’s a great way to get them hooked and eager to create on their own.  I also link this project to Shepard Fairey as a way to talk about contemporary street art and fair use laws.  They love his graphic style and become passionate about the discussion.

Who would have thought teens would have such a hard time producing a favorite selfie!?!?!  It has to be one of my most frustrating moments in this project, but it’s worth it.  We use Pixlr Chromebook app to create the posterized effect.  Then they enlarge the image on a Google Doc and submit.  I use PDF Mergy to merge all of the documents together and print them in a batch per class.


The paint I supplied them with was a warm and cool: red, blue, and yellow.  Along with, white and black to create values.  I tried FIFO squeeze bottles this year and can’t say enough about how great they are!  Paper plates and plastic wrap are available for pallets.  I stress recycling and ideally no paint should ever go down the sink…. ideally.  I give them their own brushes to keep.  For the most part, they take better care of them if it’s their own brush vs. a class set. 

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Developing successful color schemes is a challenge!  Mixing light values is also difficult, especially due to colors drying darker.  I have a gigantic paint-chip book from Sherwin-Williams.  It’s great to compare values and play with color choices. The rest of the project is pretty straight forward.  It literally becomes a paint by number and takes the stress out of painting a portrait for the first time.

Web-based Slideshow

Editable Slideshow

Color Scheme Planning Sheet

Shepard Fairey Digital Notes


Watercolor Playing Cards

One of my teaching joys is overhearing students talk about or explaining to each other what we are learning in class.  During this project, I heard students talking about watercolor techniques and color schemes left and right.  They love this project and it shows!  By far this is one of my all-time favorite projects because they are confident in the techniques they have learned and proud of the composition they have created.

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Link to web-based slide show.

Link to editable slideshow.  

Watercolor Techniques and Miniature Accordion Books

It has taken me YEARS to figure out how to introduce watercolor thoroughly without creating total burnout.  For each set of techniques, students create an accordion fold book showcasing what they learned.  The subject is totally up to them and the end result is extremely fun and beautiful work.

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Link to web-based slide show techniques #1

Link to editable slide show techniques #1

Link to planning sheet

Checklist techniques #1

Wet into Wet on damp paper, paper dam, salt, and bruising are the first set of watercolor techniques I introduce to my students.  Once they have mastered the techniques they create a miniature accordion fold book using a split complementary color scheme.  They also use a planning sheet to sketch and plan their composition.

When I grade this project I use a simple checklist rubric.  I personally talk to each student and use the checklist as we discuss their project.  I use this opportunity to give one-on-one demonstrations if needed.  I also give students a chance to make up a missed technique in the following book.

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Link to web-based slide show techniques #2

Link to editable slide show techniques #2

Checklist techniques #2

Gradient, glazing, plastic wrap, wet-into-wet on dry paper, and flat wash are the second set of watercolor techniques I introduce.  They have the choice of using one of the complementary sets for their color scheme.

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Link to web-based slide show techniques #3

Link to editable slide show techniques #3

Checklist techniques #3

During the third set of watercolor techniques, I introduce control bleed, masking, rubbing alcohol, hard edge bleed, and iridescent medium.  For this book, they have the choice of using an analogous, triad, or monochromatic color scheme.  The end product for the third book is phenomenal because they have confidence in the medium and totally get the planning process.

Introduction to Color

This one might be a little overkill, but they learn a lot about color!  I also think this is a great way to introduce watercolor.  In this unit, they make a color wheel, create color swatch vocabulary cards, play Kahoot, apply terms to art reproductions, and learn some of the science behind color.  The daily repetition of the terms helps most of them prepare for the color quiz.  This is the only quiz I give during the year and I have to say a ton of work.  Most of my students do great and I am blown away by those who don’t.  I can’t say I don’t try my hardest though!

Link to Web-based slide show on color

Link to Editable slide show on color


Impressionism is a favorite style for most beginning artists and a fun little painting to teach.  These landscapes were 8 x 10″ and didn’t take longer than a week and a half.  I had full intentions to film the demonstration process, but I was having so much fun painting I didn’t film… maybe next year!

After they finished their landscapes I gave them a 16 x 20″ canvas.  The only criteria was to try and paint the painting in an impressionistic style.  I like this project because it’s a great way to introduce the artistic process of inspiration, research, planning, execution, and criticism.


Link to web-based slideshow

Link to editable slideshow


Pen & Ink, and a successful critique!

The days seemed to fly by in December!  My time frame to add another project was narrowing, but we did it!  I was impressed with the group for being able to literally accomplish this project in a little less than 2 weeks.  Introducing this medium with this slide show was great!  Using artists off of Youtube to show how to accomplish the different techniques was engaging and successful.  My students grasped each of the techniques and were able to apply them to their projects.

I have been playing around with critique tokens to guide the end of the project critique.  This time I made tokens with sentence frames to hold students accountable to the projects they were assigning the tokens to.  I felt the critique was more thoughtful and meaningful.  I am hoping by the end of the year they will be able to write their own tokens….. fingers crossed!

Link to web-based slide show

Link to an editable slide show

Link to critique tokens

One Point Perspective Boxes


The first time I taught this was the year I student taught.  I was using a chalkboard with a gigantic 90′ triangle.  It was a total disaster.  The day resulted in a completely deflated first-year teacher and a room of equally confused students.  I am sure the only trauma caused was my own because I remember the day like it was yesterday.  Thankfully this lesson has gotten to be a lot easier to present and has evolved over the years.  If you are using 1:1 device this lesson is going to be a breeze!  Students will teach themselves and you will have the freedom to float around to assist those in need.  For the years before 1:1 device entered my room I went through the slide show step by step on the overhead projector, this was good too!

At the beginning of this slide show, I show 3 different ways to go about completing this lesson.  Everyone does things a little different and by offering a few ways to accomplish this task it gives students a choice to use what is comfortable for them.

One of the things I really like about the online community is being able to collaborate with teachers in cyberspace.  Are you following “The Helpful Art Teacher“?   Rachel Wintemberg is from the East Coast and teaches at Perth Amboy High School in New Jersey.  She is one of my favorite teachers to follow because she is friendly and has a wealth of information.  You will find her amazing how-to video on slide #4.  I love that she is teaching in my room right alongside me!

I have a ton of ideas for this lesson next year.  I want to include Prisma Color pencil techniques and talk about shading with a light source.  The lesson evolves and teaching has definitely gotten easier and less deflating!


Link to Web-Published Hyper-Doc: 1 Point Perspective Boxes

Link to Google-Slide Presentation (you can edit and make it yours): 1 Point Perspective Boxes

Link to the criteria handout in English and Spanish