I don’t know about you, but I really treasure the few photos we’ve had taken by professionals photographers. Family photography is an art all it’s own and I have a lot of respect for it. But what did people do before cameras had been invented? They hired artists to paint a portrait, or course!
Gainsborough became THE artist to have paint your portrait in England in the mid 1700s. One of the reasons people especially loved his work was that they could sit in the comfort of their home or in a nice studio, and Gainsborough would imagine them beside a beautiful lake or a picturesque farming valley or in the heart of an enchanted looking forest and paint his subject in that scene.
The Original Project
Discovering Great Artists, the fun resource Classical Conversations suggests for third quarter fine arts, suggests a project that involves drawing both an imaginary landscape and a person. I’m sure we’d all agree that drawing and painting both a full body portrait and a idealist landscape was too much for our short time slot. I really want our art projects to encourage students and inspire them to keep drawing and painting throughout life, not overwhelm or discourage them. Given the difficulty of drawing the human figure, I decided to focus our time on landscapes during our Gainsborough week. (We’ll focus on the human figure during our Degas week!)
I remember doing this project three years ago and we simplified it by having each parent bring in a photograph of their student. We cut it out and glued it onto the landscape after the student painted it. It was a fun project, but I’m sure many parents would forget to bring a photo (like I did three years ago), so I wanted to simplify it even more.
Ours Gainsborough Project
In order to keep the project focused on landscapes, we’ll give each student a paper with a basic portrait pre-drawn on it. Really, I just drew one standing boy, scanned it, and then printed it on the card stock. I wanted to print it on watercolor paper, but my printer was having a little trouble feeding it (see how the boy is in the middle of the page on the back page? That’s the watercolor one.) So I went with cardstock for my sample. If I can figure out how to make my printer properly feed watercolor paper, I’ll use that.
I usually prefer to have students work on 5.5 x 8.5 inch paper, but for this project, we’ll use full 8.5 x 11 inch paper so we have plenty of space for landscapes.
Since Gainsborough was pretty creative with his landscapes, we’ll encourage the students to paint whatever landscape they can dream up. Of course, some will still paint a simple forest (like me), but some will make their boy wear a spacesuit in a minecraft world (like my son)
Here’s the Full Lesson Plan
I wrote this whole lesson plan out for my tutors and for you! It includes everything you need. This 9 page lesson plan includes the following:
- A condensed background on the artist,
- 6 Printable pictures of the artists’ work (including a self-portrait),
- A carefully crafted sentence about the artist that’s ideal for memorization
- Materials list
- Simple instructions that any artistically-challenged teacher can understand and use,
- Suggestions for scaling the project to different ages,
- A landscape template with a boy (so the students can focus on drawing the landscape),
- References to the pertinent Classical Conversations Acts and Facts cards.
Purchase the full Gainsborough lesson plan here
This blog post is part of a seven part series about the amazing artists we study in cycle 2 of Classical Conversations. Here are links to the whole series:
- Saving Christmas with Amazing Artist Lesson Plans
- Drawing Facial Expressions Like Rembrandt
- Drawing Botanicals like Linnaeus
- Painting Landscapes Like Gainsborough
- Plein-Air Painting like Monet
- Capturing Action Like Degas
- Glob it on like Morisot