Third Grade Art this month provides a study of the element of light.
Students are asked to investigate the effect of light and dark on the viewer's
perceptions and emotions. Lesson 5 asks the students to look at the works
of an illustrator who works in black and white (and all the shades of gray)
only. Ignoring color at this time, students are asked to explore how the
artist uses light and dark to focus the viewer's attention. At the lesson's
end students try sketching an object first in full light and then partial
In Lesson 6 students move their study of light to a work by Rembrandt (Man with the Golden Helmet). They are asked to investigate Rembrandt's painting techniques and try imitating four paint applications.
In Lesson 7 students look for examples of the four paint applications in The Milkmaid by Vermeer. They continue to investigate light and dark and write a composition telling about the painting.
Reproductions of the paintings are necessary for Lessons 6 and 7 and several book sources are listed. However, if you wish to obtain individual reproductions, they are available from the sources below.
Rembrandt Van Rijn, "Man with Helmet"
HD 10x7 $3, 24x18 $14
GA 11x8 $4, 20x15 $18
SW 18x24 $9.50
Johannes Vermeer, "Milkmaid"
SW 18x16 $9.50
Hadad's Fine Arts
3855 East Mira Loma Avenue
Aneheim, CA 92806
PO Box 179
Charlottesville, VA 22902
800-221-2669; Fax 804-971-1799
Shorewood Fine Arts
27 Glen Road
Sandy Hook, CT 06482-0319
203-426-8100; Fax 203-426-0867
All posters are $9.50 each for school orders. When ordering 5 or more posters, the price reduces to $8 each. Postage and handling $3.50, no matter how many posters are ordered.
Third Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 5 - Light and Shadow
Explore uses of light and shadow by artists.
Identify the emotions light and dark evoke in literature and art.
Create two pencil drawings of the same object, one in bright light, one in a darkened setting.
Drawing paper, pencils
Charcoal or chalk (see Teacher Note)
Black and White Illustrations
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
________. The Portfolio Edition of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
________. Jumanji. New York: Scholastic, 1981.
________. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Young, Ed. Night Visitors. New York: Philomel, 1995.
Steptoe, John. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. New York: Scholastic, 1987.
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Stranger. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
It is possible to teach this lesson using pictures other than Van Allsburg's Mysteries of Harris Burdick, but these add tremendously helping the students' understanding of the way an artist uses light and shadow. Unlike most illustrations that accompany text, in this book each picture is a story unto itself, independent of any other illustrations. Because these are black and white renderings the focus is clearly on the effects of light and dark.
A portfolio collection of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is also available. The students could be placed in groups and each group given one of the pictures.They would then be responsible for reporting to classmates on the artist's use of light, shadow, and dark in their individual picture.
Other books by Van Allsburg and some by other illustrators are also listed above. While they do show the artist's use of light and shadow, each was created to accompany the text of a story.
In this lesson, students are asked to make two sketches of the same object, one in full light and one in shadow. They are directed to work with pencil only, however charcoal or chalk would be suitable materials as well. Students will, however, need direction regarding application and blending. If this is the students' first experience with charcoal or chalk it may prove to be too ambitious to attempt within the time constraints of the lesson. Select materials appropriate to the needs of your students.
Begin the lesson by discussing the effect of light, dark and shadow. Ask the students the following questions:
What comes to mind when you read "Suddenly the lights went out ..."? Does it seem scary? Do you imagine that something is going to happen? Does the way we feel about a place change when we can no longer see it clearly?
On the other hand, what do you think when you read "It seemed like they had walked for miles through the dark tunnel and suddenly there was a light up ahead ..."? Do you feel relieved? Do you expect that everything will turn out all right because there is light once again?
Suppose you read "The light shone brightly all around the door frame even sending a narrow beam through the keyhole. She hesitated before turning the doorknob ...", do you think that there will be something good on the other side of the door? Would you feel differently if the lines said "She opened the door and could only see darkness ..."?
Tell the students that from their responses it appears that light or the absence of it causes very distinct feelings in us. Ask how many have ever been tricked into imagining that an innocent shadow is really something much worse. Did they find that what they thought was a horrible monster was really a pile of old clothes, or did the shadow of tree branches on their wall look like something evil?
Say to the students: Suppose you saw the silhouette of a person in a doorway with the light coming from behind them so you couldn't see a face. How might you feel if you didn't know who the person was? Suppose it was stormy and the electricity was off and you had to shine a flashlight into the person's face. Would you be afraid?
Tell the students to think about how a person looks when a flashlight is held under the chin. Shadows form and the person's face changes from the way it normally looks. If possible, demonstrate for the students. It should be obvious that the beam from the flashlight distorts the features.
Tell the students that an artist must use great skill to create a picture that can rouse emotions like the ones you just discussed. Unlike an author who can draw many pictures in our minds with words, or a film maker who can show us what comes before and after, an artist must depend on a single painting, sculpture, or photograph to tell the story.
Show the students some of the pictures from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (or other books, see Teacher Note). Ask them how they would describe the feeling that they get from the pictures (Accept reasonable responses; wonder, curiosity or the feeling that something mysterious is happening would be likely responses.). How do the pictures look? (spooky, mysterious) Can you tell what the people in the pictures are feeling?
Display a picture and ask the students if there are certain parts that draw their attention. Ask the students to identify those parts and then repeat the same process with several other pictures. Ask the students to identify what Van Allsburg does to draw our attention to those certain parts (makes those parts lighter, has light shining on them).
Ask the students if they notice that some lines are darker than others. Why does Van Allsburg do this? (for shadows, background) Do some of the lines look fuzzy? (yes) Why does Van Allsburg do this? (to help the viewer focus on certain parts of the picture) Does he use color to do this? (no) Do you think it is easier or more difficult for Van Allsburg to use only black and white?
Explain that in order to be able to do this kind of picture, Van Allsburg had to do a lot of practice drawing. He needed to see how things look in full light and how they look in shadow. He made drawings both indoors and out.
Tell the students that they are going to do two sketches in Chris Van Allsburg's style of drawing. Explain that these will be of the same object. The first drawing will show the object in full light. The second drawing will show the same object with shadows. The drawing will be
done using pencil only.
With the overhead lights on or with full light from an outside source, ask the students to select an object in the classroom that they can easily see from their seats. (You may wish to display several objects in full view of the class.) Instruct the students to make a drawing of the one selected.
Caution students to limit the amount of erasing they do. Explain that repeated erasures
remove the surface of the paper making it unsuitable to use. Demonstrate making quick sketch lines on the board or a piece of paper. Remind the students that a sketch is a "quick drawing." It is not intended to contain a lot of detail.
After several minutes tell the students to quickly finish their sketches. Assure them that the sketch is not intended to be "complete" in the way a drawing that took a considerable amount of time would be.
Next turn off the lights or lower the window shades to darken the room. Ask the students to sketch the same object again, this time adding the shadows that have become visible. Tell the students to think about whether the lines they are drawing now are as clear as those they drew with full light, or are they now fuzzy and indistinct? Are some rays of light falling on the object? How do they make the object look different?
Again allow several minutes for the students to complete their second drawings. Remind the students that this drawing is also intended to be done quickly without a lot of detail.
Tell the students to look at their pictures side by side. Is it obvious that one was drawn in full light and the other in shadow? What are the differences in their lines? Are parts of the object difficult to see?
Have the students sign their drawings and then collect them for display. Tell the students that in the upcoming art classes they will look at the work of some other artists and see how they used light and dark to make some very interesting paintings.
Repeat the exercise of drawing two objects, but this time direct a spotlight on the object and see how shadows form. The second drawing should be done in a darkened room, or outdoors in a shaded area.
Writing (Direct the students to do one of the following)
Select one of the pictures from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and write a story to accompany it. Be sure to tell what happened before what is shown in the illustration, or what happened afterward.
Write a letter to Chris Van Allsburg about his art. Tell him what you like about his work and ask him any questions you may have. It might be interesting to know how long it takes him to do a finished drawing and how much time he spends sketching beforehand.
Letters can be addressed to Chris Van Allsburg in care of his publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Co.
2 Park Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Third Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 6 - Rembrandt's The Man with the Golden Helmet
Describe Rembrandt's technique for using light and dark.
Attempt a variety of brush strokes and paint applications.
Reproduction of The Man with the Golden Helmet
Classroom-size world map
Tempera or poster paints, brushes
Containers of water
Bonafaux, Pascal. A Weekend with Rembrandt. New York: Rizzoli, 1991. (0-8478-1441-6)
An opportunity to visit with Rembrandt is offered in this delightfully imaginative book. Reproductions of Rembrandt's works are included.
Brown, Christopher. Dutch Painting. London: Phaidon, 1976.
Contains large reproductions of paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Pieter de Hooch and others.
Muhlberger, Richard. What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt? New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. One in the series that examines the various elements (color, line, shape, subject matter) as they relate to a particular artist.
Sturgis, Alexander. Introducing Rembrandt. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994.
Wonderful collection that includes several self-portraits.
Venezia, Mike, written and illustrated by. Rembrandt. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1988.
Part of the AGetting to Know the World's Greatest "rtists Series," this is a wonderful introductory book.
Rembrandt van Rijn (REM-bran[dt] fahn RINE) was born in Holland in 1606 and died in 1669. While recognized today as one of the world's greatest artists, he did not enjoy this notoriety while living.
While not integral to the lesson, students may enjoy knowing about Rembrandt's life. Mike Venezia's Rembrandt includes biographical information, charming illustrations and humor. Do read it to the class with this lesson if possible or share it with the students at some other time.
Introduce the students to Rembrandt van Rijn by writing his name on the board and presenting the following.
Rembrandt van Rijn was a famous artist and print maker who was born in Holland in 1606. Invite a student to come to the map and locate Holland, reminding the students that this country is also known as the Netherlands. Give the students some idea of this time period by reminding them that at this time the Pilgrims had not yet sailed to America (1620). Explain that in Europe, people studied a trade under the direction of a master. Rembrandt was such a master. He had many students who learned to paint by studying and working with him.
Tell the students that if they had been able to visit Rembrandt in his studio and pose for him, they would have had the opportunity to play dress-up. That is because he spent a lot of his money (almost all) buying clothing, jewelry and items from different places and other times. Rembrandt liked to dress his subjects in these clothes and he apparently liked to wear them himself. When we look at Rembrandt's self-portraits we see him wearing very unusual clothes
for the time that he lived.
Rembrandt often dressed his models in fancy clothes but that was as far as he went with adding frills. He did not change the looks of plain people to make them beautiful. He painted people just as they appeared. Some people did not like that Rembrandt did this and they criticized his work claiming that the people looked too unattractive. Rembrandt did not change his style because of their criticisms. Instead he continued to paint the way he did even when he was not offered work and became quite poor. Although this was very sad for Rembrandt, we are fortunate because we are left with striking paintings that seem to let us look into the thoughts and feelings of his subjects.
Tell the students that they are about to see a reproduction of a painting of Rembrandt's called The Man with the Golden Helmet. Display the reproduction.
After students have had a reasonable amount of time to look at the painting ask the following questions. What is the man wearing? (helmet with feathers, armor, a hood) Is the man young or old? (old) Can we see where the man is? (no) Do we know if he is sitting or standing? (not really) Can we tell the color of the man's hair? (not really) How would you describe his expression? (Accept reasonable answers. Possible responses are sad, surprised, serious, stern.) What can you see better than anything else in the painting? (the helmet, the man's face)
Ask the students why they think the painting seems so striking. Does it look as though the man has suddenly appeared out of the darkness? Where does the light shining on the man seem to be coming from? (above) Is the man's face more in shadow or in bright light? Tell the students that this great contrast of light and dark is called chiaroscuro. Write this on the board. Rembrandt was a master at showing this sharp contrast, but he also was very capable of blending the lines where light and dark meet.
Ask the students if all the parts of the painting seem to have the same amount of paint on them or does one part seem to have a thicker layer (the helmet). Explain that Rembrandt tried different paint applications and this allowed the feathers to appear very delicate in comparison to the heavy look of the helmet. Tell the students that he often painted with thick blobs of paint but sometimes he put the paint on very thin and smooth. Sometimes he scraped into the paint with the end of his brush to make a hair-like effect or to emphasize designs like those on the helmet. Ask the students if anyone recalls what we call the element of art that an artist uses to show us velvet fabric, silky cloth, rough wood (texture).
Tell the students that they are going to get the chance to experiment with paint applications as Rembrandt did. Just as they tried sketching light and dark in the style of Chris Van Allsburg, they will now have the chance to try imitating various textures using paint.
Demonstrate that it is possible to apply a blob of paint and dab designs into it or drag the tip of the handle through and make designs. (Remind students of their early childhood experiences with finger painting.) Show too, that it is possible to thin the paint with water until it is almost the consistency of a wash. Next, paint bold, wide vertical lines and tell the students that these are the lines used for background in The Man with the Golden Helmet. Ask the students to recall what these lines do (fill-in the background, look strong and straight compared to the curved lines of the man). Finally, use a thinned paint to make soft curved lines. (Can the students see feathers starting to appear?)
Pass the painting materials to the students and have them fold the drawing paper into fourths. Tell them to attempt a different technique in each of the four boxes (thick with design, thin wash, bold vertical lines, soft curved lines). Write these on the board on the demonstration
paper if it is large enough for all students to see.
Allow the remainder of the class for practice and clean-up. Collect the paintings as they will be used in conjunction with the Vermeer lesson.
Have a student (or students) pose in some kind of costume in front of a dark cloth or board. Direct light onto the model(s). Have the other students try to paint or draw a picture of the person(s) using the techniques of light and dark and texture that they have just studied.
If possible take a photograph of the subject(s) as well. This will make a striking statement when combined with the students' paintings (drawings)that will allow the students to see the difference in the eye of the camera and the eye of the artist.
Third Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 7 -Vermeer's The Milkmaid
Reflect on Vermeer's painting The Milkmaid.
Observe Vermeer's use of light, texture and line.
Compare the art of Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Compose an expository piece about the painting.
Reproduction of the painting The Milkmaid (see Suggested Books\Overview)
Classroom-size world map
Brown, Christopher. Dutch Painting. London: Phaidon, 1976.
Contains large reproductions of paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Pieter de Hooch and others.
Goldscheider, Ludwig. Johannes Vermeer: The Paintings, Complete Edition. London: Phaidon Press, 1967. Includes The Milkmaid (Maidservant Pouring Milk) and several studies from it.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Jan Vermeer. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1981.
Large reproductions; a good choice for showing to the class if a poster-size reproduction is not available. A number of Vermeer's paintings are included.
If you have internet access it is possible to view eighteen of Vermeer's paintings at this site. Included with the full-color art is a brief biographical sketch.
Jan or Johannes Vermeer van Delft (Yawn Fare-MEER) was born in Holland in October, 1632 and died in December, 1675. His paintings of dark figures against light backgrounds exhibit an almost ethereal quality. Vermeer painted everyday occurrences with the reverence other artists of his time devoted to religious subjects.
In this lesson, students are asked to write a composition about the painting after study and discussion. If your students have not had much experience composing be sure to allot sufficient time for preparation. A suggested format with sample sentences is included at the end of the procedure.
Write Vermeer's name (Johannes [Jan] Vermeer) on the chalkboard. Tell the students that this is the name of another artist from Holland. Ask if they recall the name of the other Dutch artist whose work they most recently studied (Rembrandt). Does anyone remember the name of his painting? (The Man with the Golden Helmet)
Ask if anyone recalls another name for Holland (the Netherlands). Have a volunteer come up and point to it on the map. Remind students that the Netherlands is called "the land of windmills." It was the setting for the story of the boy who saved his village by plugging a hole in the dike and holding back the water. Tell the students that Vermeer was born in 1632 and painted the artwork you are about to show around 1660. Ask if those dates give any information about what they might expect (or not expect) to find in his paintings. If students hesitate, prompt them by asking if they would expect automobiles, cars, airplanes or television to be in his paintings. How would they expect the people to be dressed? Would women in his paintings wear pants or would they wear skirts? What occupations would most of the people have? (farming) Remind the students that in America the Pilgrims had just landed at Plymouth in 1620.
Write The Milkmaid on the board while you tell the students that it is the name of Vermeer's painting. Tell the students to close their eyes and visualize what they expect to see in the painting. After a minute ask several students to share their thoughts.
Display the reproduction of the painting. Ask if it is as they imagined. Ask: Did you expect a cow to be in the painting? Did you expect the milkmaid to be doing something other than pouring milk? Ask if anyone recalls what we call a painting of a person (portrait). Tell the students that when a painting shows a scene from everyday life it is called "genre" art (write on the board next to the title). Ask the students to tell the kinds of scenes they might expect from an artist doing a genre painting today (someone cooking, cleaning, driving a car, playing chess, watching television, reading). Ask the students if they would call The Man with the Golden Helmet genre art. Remind them of Rembrandt's tendency to dress-up his subjects. Was the man in the painting in the military, or perhaps a guard, or was he just wearing a costume?
Ask the students to continue looking at the painting for a minute and be ready to tell what Vermeer did to draw attention to the woman in the painting. Students may first mention the color of her clothing, but be sure that they notice the light in the room. Where does the light fall? (mainly on the head and shoulders of the woman) Where is the light coming from? (the window, sunlight) Is there a lot of shadow in this painting? (no)
Distribute the paint application papers from the last lesson. Have the students recall the four techniques they attempted (thick paint with designs in it, thin watery paint, bold straight lines, thin curved lines). Ask them to look for examples of each in Vermeer's work. Take a few minutes to discuss their observations and list them on the board.
Tell the students to look at the lines in the painting. Ask: Are most of the lines straight or curved? (curved) Have the students name some of the curved lines while you write them on the board under the word "curved" (the woman's face, head and shoulders; the pitcher; the bread; the basket; the bowl on the table). Are there any straight lines? What are they? (the window, the panes of glass, the box on the floor) Write these under "straight." Are there a lot of bright colors or are most of the colors blended and soft? (blended and soft) What feeling do we get from the painting? (peaceful, it seems quiet)
Ask the students if they think Vermeer made the contrast as strong in his painting as Rembrandt had done? (no) Which artist do they think used more shadow? (Rembrandt) Which used more light? (Vermeer) Are we affected differently by their paintings? (Accept reasonable responses.)
Tell the students that they are going to write about the painting The Milkmaid. They will tell about the painting and what they see. If students are curious about the box on the floor in the painting tell them that it is a foot warmer. Take a minute to discuss why this would be a necessity during this time period. Remind the students that the composition they are going to write is intended to inform, to tell about the painting and its artist.
Spend sufficient preparation time before asking the students to write. Review the information written on the board and add any words students suggest. Doing this as a group activity will help any students who may be having difficulty knowing where to focus. If you feel that your students are not ready to attempt this assignment or if time does not permit the
preparation suggested, do this as a group activity. You can still lead the students through the procedure and you can do the actual writing more quickly.
Remind students that a composition should have an introduction, a body and a closing. Ask for volunteers to suggest opening sentences. List these on the board (or on chart paper) under the word "introduction." Direct students to statements like the following:
The Milkmaid is a painting by Johannes Vermeer.
Johannes Vermeer painted The Milkmaid in 1660.
The Milkmaid was painted by Johannes Vermeer.
Tell the students that the next sentences they write should describe what they see in the painting. For example:
It shows a woman pouring milk into a bowl. She is wearing a dress with a yellow top and a blue apron. There is a white cap on her head. On the table with the bowl are a basket with bread in it and some kind of container. She is pouring the milk very carefully. Etc.
The woman in the picture is pouring milk from a pitcher into a bowl. The bowl is on a table with bread, a basket and some other container. The table is covered in green cloth and there is a blue cloth laying on it. The blue cloth is almost the same color as the apron the woman is wearing. She looks very serious about what she is doing. Etc.
Tell the students that the next paragraph should tell about how Vermeer
painted this picture. Ask them to suggest sentences to include. For example:
Vermeer used light and shadow in this painting. He put bright light on the things he really wanted us to see and put less important things in the shadows. He made the light reflect off the metal pail hanging on the wall and the glass container on the table. Vermeer lets us see the texture of the bread, the basket, and the smooth pitcher in the woman's hand. He put a bright window in the room.
Have the students close the composition with a final statement.
...The Milkmaid is a very peaceful painting.
...Looking at this painting is like peeking in a window of a house.
...The woman in The Milkmaid looks like she is frozen in time.
Allow time for the students to complete their compositions and proofread and correct them. Display the final compositions with the reproduction if possible, or on another occasion have the students draw and color their own versions of The Milkmaid to use in a display.
Bonafaux, Pascal. A Weekend with Rembrandt. New York: Rizzoli,
Brown, Christopher. Dutch Painting. London: Phaidon, 1976. (0-7148-2865-3)
Goldscheider, Ludwig. Johannes Vermeer: The Paintings, Complete Edition. London: Phaidon Press, 1967.
Muhlberger, Richard. What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt? New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. (0-670-85199-X)
Steptoe, John. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. New York: Scholastic, 1987. (0-590-42058-5)
Sturgis, Alexander. Introducing Rembrandt. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994.(0-316-82022-9)
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.(0-395-35393-9)
________. The Portfolio Edition of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. (0-395-82784-1)
________. Jumanji. New York: Scholastic, 1981. (0-590-42233-2)
________. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979. (0-395-27804-X)
________. The Stranger. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. (0-395-42331-7)
Venezia, Mike, written and illustrated by. Rembrandt. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1988.(0-516-02272-5)
Young, Ed. Night Visitors. New York: Philomel, 1995. (0-399-22731-8)