Levels 4-6

In this activity students explore ideas and artworks of Impressionist painters as inspiration for the creation of their own works of art. They analyse how artists manipulate and apply materials and techniques to convey meanings and ideas. Students experiment with a range of media and processes and apply these approaches to create their own expressive artwork that evokes a feeling.

Learning objectives

Students will:

  • Compare and contrast the aesthetic qualities of the sky in Impressionist works from the NGV Collection.
  • Interpret meanings and ideas expressed in representations of the sky in different paintings.
  • Develop and create an expressive painting of a sky using pastels on paper and paint on acetate.
  • Identify and explain their expressive choices to a partner and explain what inspired their painting.

Workshop instructions

  • Student Examples

  • Related artworks

  • Discuss

    Impressionist painters loved to paint outdoors and capture the natural world. Unlike artists before their time, who often preferred to paint in their studios, the Impressionists felt that they needed to be out in the environment and exposed to the elements to best capture their subject matter.

    Look at the related works of art and use the following discussion prompts to prepare your class for the activity:

    • What can you see in each of the paintings? What do the paintings have in common, and how are they different?
    • Describe the sky in each of the paintings. What does this tell us about the weather in each one?
    • What might it feel like to be under that sky? How has the artist expressed that mood or feeling in his painting?
      Consider the materials, colours and techniques the artist used to create their painting.
    • What could this sky mean? Think about the metaphors which could be expressed through the sky.
      For example, might a bright sky be a metaphor for hope, life and joy? Could a stormy sky be a metaphor for danger?
  • Resources & materials

    • White A4 paper
    • Soft pastels
    • A4 acetate
    • Acrylic paint
    • Brushes
    • Palettes
    • Clear plastic tape
  • Create

    Students create an artwork which depicts the sky through the following steps:

    1. Prior to artwork production, allow students time to experiment with soft pastels on paper and acrylic paint on acetate.
      Blend the pastel colours together to achieve various results and aesthetic qualities.
      See how the acrylic paint interacts with the pastel drawing underneath.
    2. Choose a mood or feeling to express in your depiction of the sky.
      Will your sky be bright and radiant, or dark and gloomy?
      Consider what colours and techniques will best convey your chosen mood or feeling.
      Use the related works of art as inspiration.
    3. Create your background using soft pastels from your chosen colour range on a piece of white A4 paper.
      Apply the rendering and blending techniques you practised during your experimentation.
    4. Place your pastel drawing underneath the acetate.
      Consider what additional details you can add to your sky on this layer. For example, clouds, mist, suggestions of weather conditions, and light beams.
      These details should further enhance the mood or feeling in your expressive sky.
    5. Apply the next layer of detail by adding acrylic paint to the acetate layer.
      You don’t need to paint over the whole sheet. In fact, it’s best to allow the pastel to show through parts of the acetate.
    6. Once your painting has dried, attach the painted acetate layer to your drawing with clear tape.
  • Present & reflect

    Students present their expressive sky with a partner or small group:

    • Describe the expressive sky you painted as a metaphor.
    • What might the conditions feel like to someone underneath your sky?
    • How does your choice of colour enrich the meaning in your expressive sky?
    • How do the techniques you applied enrich the meaning in your expressive sky?
    • Share your favourite part of the process you followed to make the artwork.