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Tricking the Eye with Op Art (C3W5)

In our Classical Conversations Foundations community, we study anatomy in cycle 3. As part of our anatomy unit, we have a fun experiment we do the very first week in science where we create an optical illusion. This makes cycle 3 a great opportunity to include some art with optical illusions. This brings the genre of Op Art to mind. Op Art is a genre of abstract art popular in the 1960s. Op Art focuses on lines, spaces, repetition, and sometimes color to achieve the look of movement and depth. I’ve always been fascinated with optical illusions. I love the way they move and pop with simple patterns of lines and space. I don’t really want Op Art pieces hanging on my wall, but I do enjoy creating them and seeing them in my sketch book.

Since we always spend one week every year in our CC community learning how to draw with perspective, we’ll be creating a piece of Op Art during that week. Optical illusions are an interesting way to learn about perspective and creating them can help students understand how to make their realistic art look accurate to the eye. Creating optical illusions often appeals to an entirely different group of students than basic drawing because the process is so mathematical in nature. You may be surprised which students enjoy working on an Op Art project most!

You might find yourself thinking of M.C. Escher when I start talking about optical illusions. He was absolutely a master artist of optical illusions. However, his art is not generally considered Op Art. I plan to do a full lesson plan about perspective and M.C. Escher another year!

There are so many Op Art projects to choose from! I had fun making a variety of them myself and I’ve included them as samples of Op Art in my lesson plan. I chose an alternating line project because it was the simplest and had several options to scale for different skill levels. You can see an example of it here in the orange Giraffe and the green leaf art work.

I’ve created a full lesson plan for this art project which includes:

  • A short lesson on the history of Op Art and some of the well known artists of the genre
  • New vocabulary words to go along with the lesson
  • A carefully crafted grammar sentence for students to memorize about Op Art
  • Links to help integrate a science lesson with this art lesson
  • Samples of my own Op Art to show students
  • Detailed Art Project instructions
  • Option for scaling the art project up or down depending on the experience level of your art students
  • Printable blank lined paper (several sizes and shapes to choose from)
  • Printable blank lined paper with a simple heart or star pre-drawn on the lines

Purchase the “Tricking the Eye with Op Art” Lesson Plan here.

Learning perspective with op art

Are you wondering what the rest of our Classical Conversations drawing art projects look like for cycle 3? Here they are! I’m making them available at a discount in the All American Drawing Package, or you can buy each separately:

  1. Drawing Basic Shapes with American Landmarks Lesson Plan
  2. Drawing the U.S. Capitol Building using Symmetry Lesson Plan
  3. Drawing Upside Down Ships Lesson Plan
  4. Using Color like Andy Warhol Lesson Plan
  5. Tricking the Eye with Op Art Lesson Plan
  6. Making a Statement with Grant Wood’s American Gothic Lesson Plan

You can see what our art projects for the first six weeks of last year (CC, cycle 2) looked like here.


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