Fauvism & Landscapes

This fun and colorful multimedia project can fit into either a Drawing or Painting classroom. The materials used are affordable and most of us already have them in our classrooms: chalk pastels and tempera paint. The timing of this lesson in your semester should come after an introduction to basic color theory, basic painting skills, and Impressionism. Strong painting skills are not necessary but students should know how to mix colors and care for brushes.

Lesson Level:

  • Middle School Beginning
  • Middle School Advanced
  • High School Beginning


Step 3: Complete

CA Content Standards:

  • 1.0 Artistic Perception
  • 2.0 Creative Expression
  • 3.0 Historical & Cultural Context

Art History & Vocab:

  • Henri Matisse
  • Fauvism
  • warm & cool colors
  • highlights
  • shadows
  • texture
  • landscape
  • foreground
  • middle ground
  • background


sample landscapes printed out or use old calendars, construction paper, pencils, tempera paint, brushes, chalk pastels, aprons if you have them


Fauvism and Henri Matisse are the inspiration for this project, here are some helpful links so you can build a presentation about them for students:

-MetMuseum on Fauvism: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/fauv/hd_fauv.htm

-The Art Story on Fauvism: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-fauvism.htm

-Biography of Henri Matisse from his estate: http://www.henri-matisse.net/biography.html

This project involves three major steps:

-Drawing a simple landscape from a source or create your own (depends on skill level)

-Filling in the major shapes with paint

-Adding bright colors and texture using chalk pastels

The reason we apply a base of paint to the page instead of just using chalk pastels, is it’s way easier for students to focus on applying texture and the technique of Fauvism/Impressionism when they don’t have to worry about filling the entire page with color. The painting layer serves as a flat base for them to apply texture and the tempera paint has a nice matte finish that holds the messy chalk pastels well.

In my room we have hundreds… yes hundreds of color landscape photos from old calendars. If you don’t have these to use as a reference for your students you can head to the computer lab and print some out or help students come up with their own landscapes.

Step 1

Choose your landscape (or make one up) and draw a very simple version on your paper. The drawing itself is just going to be a guide to our painting step so it doesn’t need to be very detailed. I chose a landscape of the desert as an example:

Landscape PhotoStep 1: Drawing

Step 2

Fill in the drawing with tempera paint. Use natural colors for this because it is easier on the students and the color will serve as a great base for the chalk pastels. Once again, detail is NOT important here. However, smooth paint application does matter. Don’t let students build up the paint too thick or it will be difficult to cover with pastels.

Step 2: Painting

Step 3

This is the part in the lesson where you will have many students waiting around for their landscapes to dry. This is a great opportunity to cut up some scrap paper and let the students practice how you want them to apply the texture and color for the final step of this project.

You may do this a number of ways, I used spheres as an example because it is a familiar shape for my students and easy to shade. I have them practice technique on three separate spheres: the first two are practice and a reminder on how to shade using warm highlights and cool shadows, the second is similar but using texture to shade and not blending.
Texture Practice

Once students have completed their practice (and their landscapes are dry) they can continue with Step 3. Remind them that Fauvism involves lots of un-natural, saturated, and bright colors. In order to keep the depth of their landscapes they should use warm colors for all highlights, cool colors for all shadows, and apply different shading techniques for each layer. I wrote up a quick guide for them on the whiteboard:

Texture Guide

Walk around and check that they are on the right track, this much freedom with un-natural colors may freak out some of your perfectionists but remind them this is an exercise in creativity, have fun and think like a Fauvist! They didn’t get the nickname Wild Beasts for nothing!

Step 3: Complete

Here is another more wild example from an old student (original image & final project):

Landscape Image Student Example Landscape


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