Students use oil pastel techniques to create a beautiful, expressive drawing as they learn about composition and how to create the illusion of depth.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts



Crayola Oil Pastels - 16 Count Crayola Construction Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Artist Proof from a previous lesson (optional)

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DRAWING WITH OIL PASTELS – Composition, Space - Step One

Step One

  1. Use one of your artist proof prints from the A World Without printmaking unit.
  2. OR work from a photograph to draw the animal.
  3. Imagine the setting for your drawing.
  4. Include a crowd of people in the scene.
  5. Add details in the foreground, middle ground and background.
  6. Remember to make people in the crowd get gradually smaller the further back they go. 
DRAWING WITH OIL PASTELS – Composition, Space - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Blend light and dark colours to give the illusion of depth.
  2. Make sure you imagine the light coming from the same direction as you add highlights.
  3. Decide if you want to add details using construction paper.
    - In this picture construction paper was used to show steps in the background.
DRAWING WITH OIL PASTELS – Composition, Space - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Apply colour in a variety of ways.
  2. Look at the finished drawing from a bit of a distance to see it with fresh eyes.
  3. Is the anything you want to change?
    In this picture the construction paper details don't seem to work with the rest of the drawing. 
DRAWING WITH OIL PASTELS – Composition, Space - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Removing the paper and colouring the steps using oil pastel was a good choice.
  2. Remember that it is okay to change things until you are happy with the final work.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a narrative drawing of an imaginary scene using oil pastel techniques;
  • use placement of objects to create areas of emphasis;
  • use diminishing perspective in a crowd scene to create the illusion of depth;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works.


Have students:

  • photograph their drawings;
  • create a digital class book using their drawings to illustrate each section;
  • write in the voice of their animal describing life before this scene, and life as it is now;
  • share their work with another class.


  1. Prior to this lesson have students experiment with oil pastel techniques in their sketchbooks using the Exploring Oil Pastels lesson plan available on this website.
  2. Download and display the Space, Balance and Emphasis posters available on this website.
  3. Teach or review the element of space and principples of balance and emhasis.
    Space - the area around, inside or between shapes or forms.
    Balance - the arrangement of elements so that they seem equal in weight or importance.
    Emphasis - highlighting part of an artwork to draw attention to it.
  4. Download images from the Internet, or find images in books or magazines of a variety of crowds.
    Busy Crowd
    Brueghel Crowd
    Tug of War
    Manet Crowd
  5. Prior to this lesson have students create an edition of prints using the A World Without printmaking lesson available on this website – Make sure they save some of their artist proofs.
  6. Or have them find a photograph of an animal they want to draw and work through the drawing process in the lesson Portrait of a Pet available on this website to draw it on a piece of coloured construction paper.


  1. View and discuss images of crowds focussing on common characteristics.
    - colour gets lighter and duller as it gets farther away
    - size of objects gets smaller as they get farther away
    - overlapping - objects block out other objects

    - details get fuzzier as things get farther away
    - objects placed higher on picture plane seem farther away
    - foreground - the space that seems closest to the viewer
    - middle ground - the space between the foreground and the background
    - background  - the space that seems far away from the viewer
  2. Discuss the composition of the pictures, the placement and colour of objects to create areas of emphasis, and the use of diminishing perspective - the idea that things that are closer to the viewer appear larger than things that are farther away.
  3. Introduce the challenge


The Challenge

  1. Create a narrative drawing of an animal in an imaginary scene using oil pastel techniques.
  2. Use placement of objects to create areas of emphasis.
  3. Use diminishing perspective in a crowd scene to create the illusion of depth.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created interesting effects with oil pastels
    - placed objects to create areas of emphasis
    - created a crowd scene using diminishing perspective
    - included an animal in an imaginary scene
    - used highlights and shadows to make things look 3-dimensional

    - created a picture that tells a story 
    - created a balanced composition
    - kept the paper in good condition
  3. Ask students to imagine the setting for their scene.
    - What possible locations that include a crowd could their animal be in?
  4. Remind them that this picture is meant to be a narrative – it has to tell a story.
  5. Encourage students to think of the kinds of details they will need to add to the composition to make an effective story.
  6. Encourage students to find source material to provide inspiration for their scene, e.g., pictures of a circus.
  7. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  8. Observe students as they work. 
  9. Provide individual assistance and encouragement. 


  1. Once all the drawings are complete display them for a group discussion. Remind students of the challenge.
    Look closely at the drawings.
    - Choose one that interests you for some reason.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
  2. During the discussion include references to:
    - Placement - how it has been used to create areas of emphasis
    - Diminishing perspective - how size and colour create the illusion of depth
    - Technique – how different techniques have been used to create the sense of space


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their drawings – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the picture, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – Narrative_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – Narrative_self-assessment.pdf)