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Soften Your Mood Painting

Observe the painting style of French artist Henri Matisse. Create mood with color and a soft edge painting technique!

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. French artist Henri Matisse was well known for his use of color to create mood, especially in portraits, and his loose painting style. How can color create mood? Ask students to think of some moods observed among classmates. What colors would they chose to illustrate those moods? Why? View some examples of Matisse’s paintings. What moods are portrayed in his works? Organize classroom resources focused on Matisse, his life and career works, for students to investigate further.
    2. Once students have become more familiar with the artist, inquire to see it they have noticed Matisse’s painting style. He paints bold, solid areas of color and simplified forms. Yet in some areas, he lets the colors blend together. That technique is called soft edge painting.
    3. Invite students to paint a self-portrait in the style of Matisse using the soft edge technique. After covering their work space with recycled newspaper, have them experiment with Matisse's technique. Have clean water handy to wash your brush between colors. Start by lightly sketching self-portraits with Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils on a heavy sheet of white paper. Simplify the shapes in the portraits as Matisse did.
    4. Load a brush with Crayola Washable Kid’s Paint and begin filling in the forms with bold colors. Lightly stroke a dampened brush across wet paint or paint adjacent color onto damp paper to blend one color into another. Try making a long stroke of one color, then immediately paint a lighter or darker color along the stroke edge to create a softly blended highlight or shadow effect. Think about how the colors you choose will portray a mood. What mood do you want your self-portrait to reflect?
    5. Allow painting to dry completely and then mount it with clear adhesive tape to a colored paper that is reflective of the mood portrayed in the portrait.
  • Standards

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

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

    LA: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

    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: Explore ways that language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements may facilitate global understanding or lead to misunderstanding.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

    VA: Students will reflect on, share insights about, and refine works of art and design.

    VA: Students experience, analyze and interpret art and other aspects of the visual world.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blain Parker; Henri Matisse (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia

    Encourage students to investigate other well-known artists of the 20th Century and compare/contrast their painting styles to that of Matisse.


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