Let’s Get Started


When it comes to painting materials most students think of paintbrushes and paper (or canvas). Students will have the opportunity to explore alternative materials to see what types of marks they make on the paper, and how they can add a sense of texture to paintings. Stylistically, abstract paintings are ideal for introducing students to different painting materials. This lesson introduces students to alternative materials, and the style of Abstract painting.


The teacher will have a collection of a variety of different materials that students can explore during this class. Collection of found materials from nature work perfectly, are easily accessible, and are cost and environment friendly.


Note:  The example image of Jean-Paul Riopelle’s painting will be on display for the class to refer to if needed to show the concept of abstract art.

  1. The teacher will initiate a discussion about the fact that in this painting there is no real subject, there are a variety of lines, marks and colours. The teacher will ask the students what they see in the painting. Another question that can be addressed to the students is if they see emotion in the painting. Is it a happy or sad painting? Why or why not?
  2. Following the short discussion, students will be told that they are going to create their own abstract painting using all different materials, everything except the typical paintbrush.
  3. The teacher will have an area set up before class where all alternative materials will be placed. This is where students will go to select their painting materials and they will be encouraged to try as many as possible. Try to limit them to 3 different materials at one specific time, or their desks can become chaotic, but the students will be allowed to come and exchange those materials at any time.
  4. After the initial discussion period, students will also be invited to select the colours of their choosing and also select a few items from the supply table.  Students will be told that abstract art is often about expression and feeling, and for them to try to show feelings on the paper. This may influence their colour choices.
  5. Students will be given their paint tray with the spectrum of colours (which varies depending on resources).
  6. The paper can also be distributed at this time by a student who is waiting his/her turn to get his/her paint. Students will now be instructed to begin painting. It can be said here that because of the nature of this assignment, most students will complete at least one painting.
  7. Students will be directed to focus on the different types of marks that the different materials make on the paper. Are there certain marks that they like? Are there any that they don’t?
  8. An opportunity for added activity is available if the students begin a painting and then stop and allow for it to dry overnight. After it has dried, students paint over the original colours and see what interesting colours and marks show up on the paper.
  9. If students complete their painting, they can attempt to create a different painting using materials different from those selected for the first painting.
  10. After all the paintings are complete and dry (probably the next day) students will hang their work up in the classroom.
  11. The teacher can initiate a discussion period where other students try to guess the different materials used on the paintings and the different emotions shown. Students will be encouraged to discuss their peers’ work as it helps develop confidence and pride in their work.

Tips and Tricks

Try not to give students all 3 primary colours, as when they are mixed together; the end result is always a brownish colour.  Put simply, use red and blue but no yellow (white should always be available, and a bit of black). Using orange, red, and blue will give the same brown effect since its base colours include all primary colours. If students really love yellow, perhaps give them yellow, blue, black and white.