Animal Portraits – Lesson Inspired by Photographer Nick Brandt

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This year, I re-imagined a painting unit I do with second grade.  Instead of just doing regular paintings of African animals (because they study Kenya with their classroom teachers), I did some research on the internet, and found lots of inspiration.

First I stumbled upon the work of Nick Brandt, a photographer who started a foundation to bring attention to endangered species in Kenya.  Then, that got me thinking of ways to change the way students create an animal painting.  Instead of painting the animal in the landscape I asked students to create portraits!  I found this lesson as inspiration for the final look I was hoping my students could achieve.

To introduce the lesson, I created this slide deck though Haiku Deck.  We viewed the work and talked about why Nick Brandt might create portraits of the animals he photographs.  I was so impressed that students were able to understand why Nick Brandt would print his work in black and white!  Students created a sketch from observation, using an animal photo I cropped to help students draw their work in a portrait format (Access photos here).  Over a couple of days they completed their drawing, and painted with tempera paint.  Then it was on to the background, which students completed in watercolor paint.  Again, students used reference images of African landscapes to inspire their work (Access photos here)To wrap up their work, students cut out, and glued their animal to their background, and shared with a partner at their table about their brushstroke techniques, over painted details, or mixed colors.

 

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To wrap up their work, students cut out, and glued their animal to their background, and shared with a partner at their table about their brushstroke techniques, over painted details, or mixed colors.

This whole unit was developed in connection to my districts common unit.  All elementary school art teachers in the district use common units as a starting off point, in this case for our second grade painting lesson.  We have common units for grades k-6 in painting, drawing, and sculpture.

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