High School Painting Projects

Written by kristy king
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High School Painting Projects
Painting projects give high school students hands-on experience in art class. (Mixed tempera colours image by millis from Fotolia.com)

For many high school students, art class provides a creative outlet and a welcome break from the stress of math tests and history papers. Students have the opportunity for self-expression through various types of art, such as drawing, sculpture, photography and painting. Teachers can inspire high school students and enhance the art class curriculum by incorporating several painting projects into the lesson plans.

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Color Theory

A painting project using acrylic paint can supplement a lesson on colour theory. The colour wheel consists of a two-dimensional chart system that classifies colour. Color theory utilises the colour wheel to show the basics about colours and the relationship between colours. Students can design and paint an image that imitates the colour wheel with acrylic paints in primary and secondary colours. Then, students can present paintings to the class to demonstrate understanding of the colour wheel.


In watercolour painting, a few basic paint colours mix with water to produce a variety of shades and colour combinations. The amount of water used in each brush stroke affects the intensity of colour. Watercolours require techniques in careful blending and shading. First, show students how to shade and blend colours with watercolour paints and let them practice each method on scrap paper. Once students become familiar with these methods they can paint a watercolour landscape.


The famous artist Rene Magritte was one of the main contributors to surrealism in art. Magritte's most well-known paintings use surrealism, which places ordinary objects in unusual contexts and gives familiar objects new translations. In Magritte's work, men in business suits stand suspended among clouds in a blue sky and trains emerge from the living room fireplace. For a painting project, have students use surrealism to create an image with objects placed in strange settings.

Abstract Painting

Abstract paintings rely on shapes and colours instead of objects and scenes to depict an image. Instead of painting on a traditional stand-up easel, the artist Jackson Pollock placed his canvas on the floor and dripped or poured the paint from a can. Pollock also used sticks or other objects to direct the paint across the canvas, eliminating brush strokes completely. Collect sticks or use the wooden tips of paint brushes for this project, encouraging students to randomly drip paint over the canvas without trying to create a familiar image.

Artist Imitation

For an independent project, students can research artists not discussed in class. Have each student pick a different artist and identify the artist's characteristic style. Then, students choose a painting to imitate. Paintings should clearly display an artist's particular style without copying the work directly. Reserve class time to let students describe each artist and present finished paintings that exhibit the artist's style. Through oral presentations, the entire class learns about different artists and painting styles.

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