SUCH AN IMPRESSION – Impressionists, Colour, Texture

In this two-part lesson students first experiment with painting natural objects from observation, and compare their experiments with works by Impressionist painters. Then they apply what they have learned to paint a still life from observation in the style of the Impressionists.


Required Time

160 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 2 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour impressionism overlapping pattern proportion watercolour paint


Crayola Black Construction Paper - 22.6 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Washable Watercolour Paints - 8 Count Crayola Variety Paint Brush Set - 5 Count Crayola Washable Tempera Paint - White Water Containers - 1 per student Paper Towels Plastic Container Lids for Palettes - 12 cm (4.5") diameter

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SUCH AN IMPRESSION – Impressionists, Colour, Texture - Step One

Step One


  1. Gather a variety of natural objects.
  2. Place them on the table so it is easy to view them separately.
  3. Examine them, paying particular attention to the texture and patterns you see.
  4. Use white paint to make marks that will give the impression of each object's shape and texture.  
SUCH AN IMPRESSION – Impressionists, Colour, Texture - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Place a small drop of water into each colour to activate the watercolour paint.
SUCH AN IMPRESSION – Impressionists, Colour, Texture - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Paint colour on top of the white shapes.
  2. Use the watercolours to experiment with different ways to make the texture more interesting.
SUCH AN IMPRESSION – Impressionists, Colour, Texture - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Compare your finished experiment with several Impressionist paintings.
  2. What do you notice? 
SUCH AN IMPRESSION – Impressionists, Colour, Texture - Step Five

Step Five


  1. Look at the still life and imagine how you will paint it to on your paper.
  2. Pay attention to the shapes and sizes of things.
  3. Use white paint to block in the main shapes.
  4. Continue painting using only white paint.
  5. When you are finished stand back and look at your work with fresh eyes before you continue.
  6. Make any changes or additions.
SUCH AN IMPRESSION – Impressionists, Colour, Texture - Step Six

Step Six

  1. When you are satisfied start painting colour on top of the white paint.
  2. Once the painting is finished view it from a distance to see it with 'fresh eyes'. Ask yourself:
    - How have I used different brushstrokes to create textures?
    - How have I used contrast to balance the composition?
    - How  do colour, lines and patterns get my eye to travel through the whole painting?
    - How does the painting make me feel? 
    - What do I like best about my painting? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • paint a still life from observation in the style of the Impressionists;
  • use tempera and watercolour paints to show texture and detail;
  • respond to the work of their peers; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • photocopy or photograph and make a black and white print of their painting;
  • use oil pastels to draw on top of the photocopied image to explore the ways images can be altered (and appropriated) to make new art;
  • display their original painting beside the oil pastel version;
  • invite their peers to compare and contrast the 2 images.


  1. Prior to this lesson have students gather a variety of natural objects.
  2. Teach about plants in Science class.
  3. Download still life Impressionist images from the Internet, for example,
    Renoir 2
  4. Gather and display books about the Impressionists, for example, Monet and the Impressionists for Kids: Their Lives and Ideas, by Carol Sabbeth; Katie Meets the Impressionists, by James Mayhew; Linnea in Monet's Garden, by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson; and Monet Paints a Day, by Julie Danneberg and Caitlin Heimerl.
  5. Arrange a still life of a vase of flowers (or other subject matter).


Part One

  1. Place students in groups of about 6.
  2. Show students the natural objects and have one person from each group come and pick up several objects for their table.
  3. Provide white paint and a variety of small brushes for each table.
  4. Demonstrate how to look carefully at the object and then paint a mark in white paint to represent it.
  5. Allow students time to paint about 8 objects.

Part Two

  1. Demonstrate how to prime the watercolour sets with water, and then paint colour on top of the white paint.
  2. Introduce the Impressionists and show several paintings to the class.
  3. Ask students to see how their paintings look the same as some aspect of the Impressionist paintings they are viewing.
  4. Introduce the challenge


The Challenge

  1. Paint a still life from observation in the style similar to the Impressionists.
  2. Create a balanced composition.
  3. Use watercolour paint over white tempera to show texture and detail.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Respond to the work of others and 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:
    - painted what I saw
    - arranged the subject matter in a balanced composition
    - used the paints effectively
    - included important details
    - created texture with the paints
    - kept the paper in good condition
  3. Place the still life in a central location – or have a separate still life for each group.
  4. Be sure everyone can see the still life with ease.
  5. Point out the proportions of the vase and its relationship to the flowers.
  6. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  7. Ask students to think about the best way to position the subject on the paper.
  8. When students have finished the white coat ask them to stand back and look at their work with ‘fresh eyes’ before continuing with the watercolour layer.
  9. Encourage them to make any adjustments.
  10. Observe students as they work. 
  11. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Display the paintings as a ‘body of work’.
  2. Ask students to gather in front of the display and look at the works thoughtfully and to find 3 things they find interesting about any of them.
  3. During the discussion include references to:
    - textures – that have been created using different brushstrokes
    - contrast – how it has been used to balance the composition
    - movement – how colour, lines and patterns get the eye to travel through the whole space
    - feelings the works evoke
    - challenges they may have had and how they solved them
  4. Ask them 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 their paintings – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the painting, 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 - Impression_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - Impression_self-assessment.pdf)