Colorful Cacti – a Middle School cacti painting project inspired by the muted desert colors of the Southwest!
Our Tweens & Teens in camp last week literally knocked our socks off with these stunners!
These were created on large 18×22 200# cold pressed watercolor paper. We chose to create a clean border by taping them to the table with painter’s tape.
We wanted the focus of this lesson to be on light, shadows & texture, not mixing colors. So ahead of time, we mixed a huge palette of muted Southwestern desert landscape inspired colors. They could do a little mixing from those colors but the main idea was to have them select from only that palette. That freed them up to focus on the composition, shapes, light, shadow, texture, etc.
The first day we only got as far as sketching the design and painting the background. The reasons we chose to paint the background first was two-fold: to enable them to get as clean of a line as possible when painting the cacti, and also to enable them to create as flat and smooth of a color for their background. If you look close, many of them chose to dry brush blend a few colors to create the look of a desert sunset. If they painted the cacti first, then tried to paint the background around the cacti, the results would be more splotchy. For their background, they were also able to decide if they want to include a horizon line or not.
Day two students worked on painting their cacti by layering colors, working from light to dark. We encouraged them to focus on very concentrated brush strokes, working in small areas at a time. Then they had to identify an angle for their light source and go back on top and layer of lighter & darker colors for the light & shadow. There was a lot of hands-on demonstration prior to each step of this painting.
The final steps were to add texture with their brush strokes, and other tools (for example, using the handle end of the brush to create white dots for the spines).