Lesson 5: Blocking in Values

Blocking in Values & Adding Warm and Cool Tones

Lesson Overview

In this lesson students will learn how to map out the light and dark values on their portraits. I introduce this lesson with a power point presentation showing how a portrait develops in stages. This gives students a good idea of what the end game is. Then, I have my own canvas and easel set up at the front of the class to paint with them as I teach the lesson.


Lesson Materials

  1. Portraits in progress
  2. dog profiles
  3. variety of paint brushes (I usually give my students a liner brush, a large shader brush and a medium sized square shader brush)
  4. a bucket of water
  5. a palette of warm and cool coloured paints (For this age group, I often split the palette in half with warms on one side and cools on the other. It’s a nice way to remind them of the colour wheel and how to blend and mix to achieve secondary and tertiary colours as they are working.)
  6. The Secret Language of Color by Joann Eckstut. This is a very useful book to reference for this lesson and then again in lesson number 7 when you work together to dream up a future to paint in the background for the adoptable dogs.
  7. a colour wheel and an image showing neutral colour examples

Go to PDF for printable file

Curriculum outcomes

(from the Alberta Education Program of Studies for Grade 4 Art)

  • Tertiary colours: (12 spoke colour wheel) identify & create (AC: 6B, 7a, 8d, 10i 3)
  • Neutral colours: identify & create (AC: 6B, 7a, 8d, 10i 3)
  • Explore painting media (AC: 10iii b) (CHC 10h)

Learning Activity
Group Discussion
Ask the students to look at their dog in the photo. Ask a few volunteers to tell the class what colours they see. They may start with “fur” colours that we see instantly when looking at a photo like black, beige, white or brown. This is great! Then ask them to look a little more carefully:

  • Are there any golden shades?
  • Any blues or purples that seem to shine off of some of the black coated dogs?
  • Any yellows or silvers in the white fur dogs?
  • Does the light appear to give a reddish tone?

While students are talking go to your own easel and show them what colours you see in your own dog’s
profile. Remind them that blue recedes and warm pops out. This will help then choose their colours.

Teacher’s Demonstration Painting
Before students begin, demonstrate on your own painting using different brush strokes:

  • an impasto style applying thick amounts of paint
  • thin washy layers allowing the last layer to show through
    Show them different mark-making techniques that will give their dog’s fur texture. For example:
  • A dry brush technique will give their dogs fur a feathery appearance
  • Cross-hatching will give their dogs fur depth
  • Double loading their brush with paint, meaning adding two paint colours at once but not mixing them first. This can be a fun exploration of colour. They can choose two colours they feel work well for their dog’s fur and apply it directly onto the canvas allowing both colours to show without blending together completely!
  • Scumbling technique allows the student to apply a little bit of pressure onto their brush while moving it in circular motions. This was used often with students who had dogs that had very curly fur!

There are many more techniques you can teach your children but, I would focus on one or two and then allow the magic to happen where they just explore with mark marking and colour!
Demonstration portrait samples (see below) show cool colours for the darker blocked in areas and warmer colours for the highlighted areas

Dog portrait with cool toned colours in the darkest areas:

Dog portrait with cool-toned colours in the darkest areas

Dog portrait with warmer toned colours in the highlighted areas

Dog portrait with warmer toned colours in the highlighted areas







Go to PDF for printable file

End of Class

  • I like to leave a few minutes after we have cleaned up to talk about the lesson, discuss what worked and what the students found challenging
  • See if they have any questions about either art, empathy, or their adoptable dog.
  • This is also a good time to share any updates about the kids’ adoptable dogs. One of the best parts of this project is the cheers and happy faces you see when you let them know a dog has found a foster home or a forever home! This will come up in most classes as the students want to know how their dogs are doing.
  • Share the goal of the next lesson: creating a background and focusing on their dog’s happiness.