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Painting with Neutral Colors Like Andrew Wyeth (C3W16)

Andrew Wyeth’s paintings carry a contemplative depth to them that is characteristic of his work. He usually used a very limited and sometimes muddy / muted color pallet, achieving incredible emotion. This is not the shock of an Andy Warhol painting, but a more subtle emotion. I find myself staring at Wyeth’s paintings much longer than I expected. My eyes can easily rest on them and I can almost feel the atmosphere of the room. There’s something very calming about Wyeth’s paintings.

Andrew Wyeth was part of an extended family with may artists, including his father, siblings and children. He was homeschooled due to health problems and ended up picking up a lot of his art skills from his dad, N.C. Wyeth, who was a well known illustrator. By 20 years old, Andrew Wyeth had his own style and his own fans!

Samples of Wyeth’s Art Work

I was unable to get permission to use images of some of Wyeth’s paintings from any of the companies that own the copyright. I haven’t found any children’s books about Andrew Wyeth to recommend either. (Please let me know if I missed one!) There appears to be some great biographies and books of Wyeth’s artwork, but my library doesn’t have them. This leaves us with what we can find on the internet. Be aware that Wyeth painted a lot of nudes- he especially liked to paint his friend, Helga, nude. I learned all about that when I unknowingly checked out a book from the library named Andrew Wyeth; The Helga Pictures. I figured it would be good when it was the first book that popped up on google when I searched for “Andrew Wyeth kids book.” (It was at least pretty interesting to learn that he had kept all his Helga paintings secret from everyone, including his wife, for many years. It created a little controversy when he released them to the public!)

I compiled a list of a few websites that have good resolution, printable images of several of Wyeth’s paintings that are appropriate for the classroom. Since I don’t own the copyrights or have permission to include the picture in my products, I simply included a list of links in my lesson plan in lieu of the actual photos. It should be easy for you to print a copy to show in class. As I understand it, that would fall under the “fair use” exemption. Copyright is tricky but since I’ve been researching and reading so much about it, I’m preparing a blog post to break it down for the average Art Teacher’s perspective. I should have it done in a few more weeks. Make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter so you’ll know when it comes out! 🙂

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Our Wyeth-Like Art Project

For our project, we’re going to learn a bit more about the color wheel and then experiment with creating “muddy” colors by mixing complementary colors. This project helps the students understand the color wheel better and get a feel for the wide variety of brown-like colors that actually exist. Wyeth used these types of colors extensively!

Art curriculum for students

Some of the students will want to sketch their own drawings to paint. However, the less experienced students can start with a line drawing of Wyeth’s Christina’s World so they can focus on mixing colors and painting.

Kids paint Christina's World

One of my customers recently asked me what paper I use that works well with paint, yet also can feed through my printer. I really like the Canson XL 98lb Mixed Media paper (pictured below).  I purchase it at Walmart and then have to cut it down to size before printing on it. As for paint, I’ve been trying out this Essentials watercolor 12-tube set (pictured below) from Amazon for about $5. I think they work great for beginners and one set lasted all through last year for my 24 students.

I love getting these kinds of questions because they allow me to help you out. So send your questions to julie@ridgelightranch.com!

Here’s the Full Lesson Plan

I wrote this whole lesson plan out for my tutors and for you! It includes everything you need. You can purchase this Andrew Wyeth lesson plan here.  This 9 page lesson plan includes:

  • A condensed background on the artist
  • A short lesson on color theory and the color wheel
  • 2 Color wheels to show students
  • A carefully crafted sentence about Andrew Wyeth (ideal for memorization)
  • Vocabulary words and definitions
  • A photo of the artist
  • Links to a representative selection of 6 of Andrew Wyeth’s pieces of artwork*
  • Materials list
  • Simple art project instructions for painting in neutral colors like Andrew Wyeth
  • Sample “Neutrals Chart” showing how different primary and secondary colors create different neutral colors
  • Suggestions for scaling the project to different experience levels

Painting with Neutral Colors Like Andrew Wyeth- C3W16 Lesson Plan

Want More?

This blog post is part of a six part series about the amazing artists we study in the 3rd quarter of cycle 3 in Classical Conversations. Here are links to the whole series:

Check out my Cycle 3 Resources page for more info on these and my weeks 1-6 drawing lesson plans!


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