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Introduction: Friends are an important part of life! Let students express their own views of friendship by painting a picture of animals in a cozy pose.
Objective: Students will use a photo reference of a pair of animals to create a picture that demonstrates friendliness, paying attention to placement of subjects, wildlife characteristics, and color.
Materials: Painting materials (pastels, watercolor, tempera paints, or water-soluble pencils or crayons work well), paper suitable for painting materials, masking or painter’s tape, boards, reference photos
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Step One: Teacher will introduce reference photos of animals in a variety of arrangements. Students will identify which animals appear to have comfortable or friendly relationships with each other, and explain the reasoning behind their choices. Teacher can point out common components of photos of “friendly” animals including arrangement of forms (for example, animals lounging in close proximity or facing each other), colors, and facial expressions animals appear to have.
Step Two: Students will identify their own views of friendship in a short journal exercise, answering the topic question “What is friendship?” After writing, students should circle adjectives they see in their answers (examples might include reassuring, comfortable, fun, silly, protective, relaxed, etc.). Students will identify which adjectives they would like to express through their friendship wildlife paintings.
Step Three: After students have taped paper to their boards in preparation for their paintings, the teacher will offer them a variety of copies of reference photo choices showing pairs or small groups of animals that appear to be friends. Students will choose the photos that they think depict the adjectives they would use to describe friendship, and begin sketching in their compositions.
Step Four: Students will continue to develop their paintings, possibly using a second class period to complete them if needed. As students work, the teacher will circulate the room and ask students to explain their choices of color, arrangement of animals, and how they plan to evoke a feeling of friendship between the animals in the paintings. Once students appear to have their compositions sketched in, the teacher should stop the class periodically to demonstrate technique such as showing fur patterns or creating eyes with expression (these demonstrations should be done at whatever level meets the needs of the students so as not to confuse them—the focus should be on overall composition and using color to set the tone).
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Assessment: After paintings are complete, the teacher will ask students to post their works on the board for a brief discussion. Students should take turns sharing why they made their artistic choices as they worked, identifying what elements they used to depict friendship between the animals in the paintings. Students should also identify whether or not they created paintings that evoked the adjectives they originally used to describe friendship, or whether they created paintings that brought some new adjectives to mind.
Extension: This lesson makes a great introduction to wildlife painting! Students can share which forms of wildlife they would be interested in painting in the future, and come up with a list of techniques they would like to work on in future wildlife paintings.