INSPIRED BY FLORENCE McGILLIVRAY – Tom Thomson, Canadian Artists

Students compare and contrast paintings by Florence McGillivray and Tom Thomson, and then use what they learn to paint a personally significant landscape of their own.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 9


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


background composition foreground landscape middle ground modernist art


Crayola Acrylic Paint - 6 Count Crayola Paint Brushes Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Water Containers - 1 per student Paper Towels Masking Tape Plastic Place Mats - 1 per student

Shop Crayola Products


INSPIRED BY FLORENCE McGILLIVRAY – Tom Thomson, Canadian Artists - Step One

Step One

  1. Use the worksheet to carefully examine the painting, Afterglow, by Florence McGillivray.
    - What do you notice about the colours?
    - Describe what she does with colours, for example, the number of colours in the sky.
    - What kind of brushstrokes does she use? How do you think she uses the brush?
    - How has she composed the picture?
    - How would you describe it in mathematical terms, for example, geometric shapes, fractions, horizontal, vertical?
    - How has she used line and pattern in the painting?
    - How does her use of line affect the overall feeling in the painting?
INSPIRED BY FLORENCE McGILLIVRAY – Tom Thomson, Canadian Artists - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Fold a piece of paper into quarters.
  2. Cut a viewfinder out of a small piece of paper about 6 cm x 9 cm.
  3. Place the viewfinder over one section of the painting.
  4. Paint what you see paying attention to how Florence McGillivray used colour, texture and brushstrokes, for example,
    - flat, textured brushstrokes
    - layering tints and shades of one colour
    - making shapes and outlining them with loose, organic lines 
    - layering contrasting colours on top of each other
  5. Move the viewfinder to a new section of the painting and paint what you see. 
  6. Repeat this until you have done something different in all 4 sections of the paper.
INSPIRED BY FLORENCE McGILLIVRAY – Tom Thomson, Canadian Artists - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Choose a photograph of a place that is special to you, for example, the beach near your grandmother's house.
  2. Make several thumbnail sketches of the scene, organizing the space so that it has one third sky, one third middle ground and one third foreground.
  3. Use your device to crop the composition in various ways.
  4. Follow the rule of thirds to place vertical objects in the composition.
  5. Choose the composition you like the best.
INSPIRED BY FLORENCE McGILLIVRAY – Tom Thomson, Canadian Artists - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Tape the paper to a plastic placemat.
  2. Make sure the tape is straight and runs parallel to the outer edges of the paper.
  3. Let Florence McGillivray's style influence the way you paint the scene.
INSPIRED BY FLORENCE McGILLIVRAY – Tom Thomson, Canadian Artists - Step Five

Step Five

  1. From time to time view the painting from a distance so you can see it with fresh eyes.
  2. When you are happy with everything, gently remove the tape.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • compare and contrast 2 landscape paintings;
  • identify characteristics of Florence McGillivray's style;
  • paint a landscape that expresses their own ideas in a style influenced by Florence McGillivray; 
  • use a variety of textured brushstrokes and contrasting colours;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • research the life and careers of artists Florence McGillivray and Tom Thomson, and then organize their research into an electronic format to share with classmates;
  • use their research to imagine a discussion Florence McGillivray and Tom Thomson might be having about painting in Canada and Europe;
  • write a script of the conversation;
  • create a video of the conversation with 2 students in role, one as Florence McGillivray and the other as her friend, Tom Tomson;
  • share the video with others.


  1. Download images of Afterglow, by Florence McGillivray and Jack Pine, by Tom Thomson from the Internet at,
    The Jack Pine
  2. Prior to this lesson preview the video about Florence McGillivray at,
    Forgotten Canadian Artists
  3. Gather and make available books about Florence McGillivray, Tom Thomson, and Canadian modernist artists in general, for example, A Collection of Works by Florence Helena McGillivray, by W.C. Allen; Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists, by A Prakash; The Women of Beaver Hall: Canadian Modernist Painters, by Evelyn Walters; Tom Thomson: An Introduction to His Life and Art, by David Silcox; Treasury of Tom Thomson, by Joan Murray; and The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson: An Introduction, by Anne Newlands.
  4. Photocopy the Compare and Contrast Paintings worksheets, enough for each student to have one. (Downloads – CompareContrast.pdf)



  1. Display the image of Afterglow, by Florence McGillivray. 
  2. Ask students to look at the work closely for a minute.
  3. Share first impressions of the painting, and make a list of the things students describe, for example,
    - textured brushstrokes
    - strong, contrasting colours
    - everything is simplified
    - sky is tints and shades of yellow
    - light glows in the sky
    - dabs of colour
    - painting divided into 3 sections
    - loose, organic outlines
    - one third foreground, one third middle ground, one third background and sky
  4. Display the image of The Jack Pine, by Tom Thomson. 
  5. Ask students to look at the work closely for a minute and share their first impressions.
  6. Display images of both paintings alongside each other. Share some information about the artists, for example,
    - McGillivray was a modernist painter who studied in Europe and brought new ideas back to Canada
    - Thomson and McGillivray were good friends
    - he met her in Whitby through relatives and through the college where she taught
    - Thomson admired her work
    - they were both landscape artists
    - he was impressed that her painting Afterglow had been purchased by the National Gallery of Canada
    - the two friends shared ideas about art
    - McGillivray was Tom Thomson's mentor
  7. Discuss how this information affects their understanding of the Thomson painting. Talk about what it means to be influenced by another artist, for example,
    - an artist takes the ideas of another artist and makes them his/her own
    - although the style is similar, it is still unique because each artist builds on what the others have done
  8. View the video Forgotten Canadian Artists.
  9. Have students complete the Compare and Contrast Paintings worksheets. (Downloads – CompareContrast.pdf)
  10. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Compare and contrast 2 landscape paintings.
  2. Identify characteristics of Florence McGillivray's style.
  3. Paint a landscape that expresses your own ideas in a style influenced by Florence McGillivray. 
  4. Use a variety of textured brushstrokes and contrasting colours.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  6. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when my painting represents a place that is special to me, and is influenced by Florence McGillivray's style, for example:
    - textured brushstrokes
    - strong, contrasting colours
    - everything is simplified
    - use of tints and shades of one colour
    - light glows in sky
    - dabs of colour
    - loose, organic outlines
    - paper in good condition
  3. Encourage students to add their own personal touch to their painting.
  4. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  5. Observe students as they work. 
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to share their work and discuss the things that are especially effective and why.
    Talk about:
    - what is special about the place in the scene
    - how their painting shows the influence of Florence McGillivray
    - how they made the style their own
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask students to tell how they felt about doing this project.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting
  2. Observe students as they discuss the paintings – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – McGillivray_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – InspiredByMcGillivray_self-assessment.pdf)