ISMs with Phillip Martin
Lesson Plan
Learner Outcomes:
Understand that colors can be opaque and transparent
Introduction to mixed media art, watercolors, oils, acrylics
Realize that the contrast of value causes eye movement over a picture
Appreciate line is used to represent the world around us
Appreciate that texture is used to enhance realism
Appreciate that texture is used to enhance aesthetics
25 pencils
25 rulers
25 erasers
25 brushes
25 sheet of 12" x 18" drawing paper
assorted water colors, markers, colored pencils, or colored paper
Pointillism, Surrealism, Cubism, Impressionism, Realism, Opaque, Transparent , Mixed Media, Contrast, Line, Texture

This activity gets the title "ISMs" because it involves several different styles of art - Realism, Pointillism, Impressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. It provides the students an introduction to these many styles and some of the artists who used them. To begin the activity, spend one class session introducing each "ism".

READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU PLAN TO TEACH THE LESSON! Allow the students the opportunity to explore and play with the concepts. I have created introduction Powerpoints for each of these ISMs which you may find and use on

Impressionism -- I suggest this is the first ISM done on the final project because water is involved and could splash other work. I introduce the students to Wet on Wet painting and Wet on Dry. It's just like it sounds. With wet on wet you wet the paper with water. Use a paint brush and wet the paper. Then, paint upon this. As you would guess, there is a lot of blending and blurring of paint. On the second day, student use wet on dry to add detail. You don't wet the paper. The paint doesn't bleed. There is the opportunity to add a lot of detail.

Cubism -- I tell the students that if there is a part of the drawing that is difficult to draw, it's time for Cubism. It takes off the pressure and they enjoy it. This piece can be done with markers, crayons, colored pencils or anything else the student comes up with.

Surrealism -- This is usually the most popular ism. After the introduction, turn the kids loose on practice drawings and see what they come up with. Again, on the final rendition, it is their call what they use. It just should be different from Cubism. Most students use colored pencils on one and markers on the other.

Pointillism -- This requires so much patience. I'd suggest you have students design art the size of postage stamps. They don't have to complete the project. It is just introduction and practice. The finer the tips the better. Start with yellow. Next orange and red. Finish with green, blue, brown and black. It helps to preserver the color of the markers better. Helpful hint: Use a paper to separate your hand from the art or the pointillism will smudge. I suggest doing this ISM fourth. The only project more likely to smudge is realism.

Realism -- (It may be wise to have two sessions devoted to realism since gradual shading and contrast may take more time to understand and master.) I have the students make a rectangle about five inches long and an inch wide. Then, make it into five boxes. The box on the left is white and the box on the right is black. The three inner boxes are medium light, medium and medium dark. You'll need some good drawing pencils for this part.

After success here, in a second rectangle, do not make the boxes. Try to blend from light to dark with gradual blending.

Finally, give students time to try and draw objects with gradual blending. They most challenging thing they can try is a sphere. Go for it!

Eventually, each student must create some kind of contour drawing. Upon completion, the piece must be divided into five sections in any manner the student chooses. Each section will be rendered in a different style. If the student desires to add any additional "isms" that is no problem. Most of the "isms" may be rendered with any medium desired. However, the realistic section must be done in pencil, using a balance of five shades ranging from light to dark. Students are free to use markers, crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, acrylic paint, or any other supplies that they choose.

Copyright 2000, revised 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.