Painting with Pattern

For this unit, students created paintings that incorporated pattern as a way to show depth and volume and add meaning or symbolism to their work. Students had creative choice in subject matter for their painting, and were encouraged to use patterns that conveyed meaning or symbolism. As an introduction to the unit, students looked at and discussed artworks from various contemporary and modern artists such as Toyin Ojih Odutola, Christina Quarles, Alice Neel, Yayoi Kusama, Amy Sherald, Jordan Casteel, and Hope Gangloff. These artists all use pattern in a variety of ways in their artwork both to convey meaning, carry symbolism, as well as draw the eye towards focal points in their composition.

Students began this unit by creating one-hour observational paintings of draped patterned fabric. This allowed them to observe how patterns move, distort, and shift in color and value as they wrap around three-dimensional forms.

Following the one-hour painting lesson, students came up with ideas for their own painting, using sketches or reference photos as jumping off points. We began the paintings with underpaintings using a dark color (such as ultramarine blue) and white. Students were encouraged to fill the entire composition and show a range of values, and to not yet add in too much detail of patterned areas. Before beginning to add color over their underpaintings, students compared and contrasted the color schemes from various artworks by Jordan Casteel and Alice Neel. We discussed how the color scheme was used to create a mood or atmosphere in the painting, and how intentional color placement throughout a painting can be used to create movement or harmony in a composition.

Below: Underpaintings; acrylic or oil on canvas, and completed paintings