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Autumn acrylics.

Expressionistic textured paintings are intense and passionate for both the viewer and the artist. Regional subject matter can relate the artist's feelings with the period and location of the artwork. Last fall, the goal of one of my assignments for my beginning drawing and painting students was to combine Expressionism and Regionalism.

Michigan winters are long, cold, and colorless, but we are very proud of our intense autumn color palette. This season is often a favorite, and it coincides with the start of our school year, when nature directs our attention outside the classroom.

To start the unit, students brought in a dozen leaves from different trees and completed a life-size shaded pencil drawing of their favorite one. Next, they arranged and attached three or four leaves to a rectangular sheet of white paper. We talked about composition as a way to direct the viewer's eye. I reminded students of the importance of interpretation. Their interpretation of the subject was the reason for painting. They were to be selective with the facts that nature presented as they balanced their compositions. They were to further enhance and individualize their paintings through color choice, texture paths, and brushstrokes.

The leaf studies were then enlarged proportionally onto pieces of scrap matboard ranging in size from 12 x 14" (30.5 x 34 cm) to 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm). Leaf outlines and interior veining were traced over with heavy black marker.

Students used pencils to fill in the leaf shapes with parallel contour lines that reflected the movement and roll of the leaf. Background parallel lines shadowed the shapes in the composition. Students applied three layers of glue lines over all the pencil lines, allowing the glue to dry between applications.

Students began painting with acrylic paints, using an autumn color palette and obvious brushstrokes that followed the texture paths created by the glue. I gave brushstroke demonstrations to small groups of students when necessary. I have a large poster of a Vincent van Gogh painting on display to reinforce the idea of using brushstrokes to create a textured surface. Students who were dissatisfied with color combinations were able to make changes by repainting.

Background colors were chosen upon completion of the foreground. Finished paintings were sprayed with triple-thick gloss varnish, backed with foam board to correct any warping, and framed without glass using a metal frame kit.


Students apply media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that their intentions are carried out in their artworks.


Nancy Mollhagen is an art instructor at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
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Title Annotation:High School
Author:Mollhagen, Nancy
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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