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Inspired by Matisse.

What do Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein, British artist David Hockney, the father of modern art Paul Cezanne, and beloved French modern Henri Matisse have in common? They have all painted still lifes with their own styles and techniques.

The Varying Styles of Artists

The social and cultural times greatly mold the methods an artist chooses to interpret in a still life. Lichtenstein was the quintessential pop artist who was inspired by comic strips. In a floral still life, Hockney emphasized the background as much or more than the vase and flowers. Cezanne's view was darker, having a heavy, sculptural feel and weight. Matisse painted still lifes that were decorative in nature with a wide assortment of patterns and color. Students found it quite interesting to discuss which artist's interpretation they preferred and why, which led to a successful and exciting lesson.

We looked to Matisse for inspiration for our still lifes. I showed various artworks by him so students could see the wide range of the media he worked with, from stained glass windows to paper cutout collages. I also gave a brief history of his life emphasizing his dedication to the creative force.

Concentrating on Contour

To begin our drawing one or two apples were placed on a cloth covered box. We used a strong light source to bring out highlights and shadows. I pointed out some of the contour edges so students became aware of the subtlety of curves specific to the shape of an apple. Every student had a different view of the same apple and I encouraged them to really study the contour and draw what they saw--not to copy the example or draw a preconceived idea of how they think an apple should look. We moved the apple into different poses to make it seem as if there were many apples.

Designing Patterned Details

Next, the students added bowls or plates to hold the apples in their drawings. After referring to Matisse's painting and looking at some plates and bowls in the artroom, students designed their own with an emphasis on pattern. Some students referred to a favorite china pattern at home, others combined several pattern ideas, and still others used geometric shapes as a pattern design.

They drew a table line and added tablecloths that they designed. The final decision was how to design the wall. Should it be floral, geometric or a bare wall with a window?

When the whole picture had been sketched, students used crayon to trace over the pencil, pressing hard to create a wall to contain the watercolor. Fluorescent crayon and/or oil pastel could also be used for emphasis, variety, or contrasting effects.

Painting In The Shadows

The final fun was applying the watercolor. I began the last class of this lesson with a quick demonstration on painting shadows and highlights. I illustrated with blues and purples rather than with black to show how to give shadows more variety in color and depth. The apples provided a wide range of colors from yellow, orange, and red to greens and purples. The watercolor backgrounds were delightful with assorted interpretations of the same subject.

The completed Matisse-inspired still lifes were beautiful. Now when the student looks at a still life it will be with a more sophisticated eye for shape, color, pattern, and light.

Bonnie Baber is an art teacher at Runnymede Elementary and Carroll Springs in Carroll County, Maryland.
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Title Annotation:studying artists' techniques
Author:Baber, Bonnie
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 1, 1998
Previous Article:Items of Interest.
Next Article:Celebrating Color & Light.

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