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Natural Textures

The colors and textures in nature inspire artists in so many ways. Explore the artwork of Alma Thomas, and use the elements of nature to create your own abstract drawing!

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Open a discussion with students by asking if they have ever seen the leaves dance when the wind blows or the flowers come alive when the sun shines? Nature is constantly moving and changing around us. Have students discuss their nature scenes. The colors, shapes, and movements in nature can be a great inspiration for interesting artwork!
    2. Alma Thomas, an African American Expressionist painter, used the colors and patterns in nature to create a new abstract style of painting. She titled her paintings to let us know what they reminded her of in nature. Provide an opportunity for students to investigate the life and professional career of Alma Thomas, as well as photography of her artwork. Organize text and electronic resources for students to view during this research.
    3. When research is complete, ask students to discuss what they have learned. Then shift the focus of the discussion to the outdoor environment that students are residing in currently. What colors, shapes and patterns are found present in nature? How many different textures can be recognized? Make a list of student contributions to the discussion on a class white board. Then ask, "How would these make interesting works of art?"
    4. Students use their new insight into Thomas' work to create an original abstract drawing. Using Crayola Slick Stix™, challenge students to create an abstract drawing on a piece of canvas painter’s tarp. Remember that Slick Stix contain pigments that may stain clothing, fabrics and other household surfaces. Students wear a smock to protect clothing and cover work surfaces with recycled newspaper during this activity. Use the class list and Alma Thomas’ paintings to inspire drawings.
    5. Remind students to notice the texture that is created when the Slick Stix cover the canvas tarp! How can you use this texture to make your drawing more interesting? Blend, swirl, and smudge colors together for exciting effects.
    6. Just as Alma Thomas did, students title their drawings to let everyone know how they used colors, shapes, textures, and patterns in the artwork to reflect their natural surroundings.
  • Standards

    LA: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

    LA: Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    MATH: Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

    VA: Identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places.

  • Adaptations

    Possible teacher resource includes: Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings by Alma Woodsley Thomas

    Encourage students to identify patterns, colors, shapes, and textures in nature and simplify these into an abstract design.

    Students research the life of Alma Thomas and interpret her natural texture artwork. Gather items from nature such as bark, leaves, grass, and pebbles. Use Crayola Color Sticks to make rubbings of each texture on a small square of paper. Punch holes in the corners of each square and weave them together with yarn to create a texture quilt.

    Students compose a description of how they each made their Natural Texture. Allow students to audio tape their descriptions and attach the electronic file to a digital photograph of their artwork saved on a classroom computer.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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