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Thomas Eakins: Scenes from Everyday Life

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Keywords: Kidspiration, Digital Camera
Subject(s): Art, Technology, Special Needs, Writing, Photography, Journalism, History
Grades 7 through 8
School: Oconto Middle School, Oconto, WI
Planned By: Heather Rennie
Original Author: Heather Rennie, Oconto

Subject Area:
Art History
Studio Art

Grade Level: 7-8

Estimated Time: (5) 45 minute sessions

►Students will learn about Thomas Eakins and his career in photography, painting, sculpting and teaching.
►Students will use photography in their own painting.
►Students will incorporate the time of day, the positioning of the human subject and composition in their own painting.
►Students will need to make close observations before they intergrate their own photo into a final product / painting.

►The Metropolitan Museum of Art, website: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eapa/hd_eapa.htm
►VHS or DVD – Thomas Eakins: Scenes from Modern Life
►VHS or DVD Player and RV monitor
►Digital still camera (s)
►Ability to print or obtain prints from camera (s)
►Drawing tool
►Painting materials (paints, brushes, canvas or paper)
►Student handout with project description and grading / rubrics


Session 1-Introduction of Thomas Eakins and the Assignment (45 minutes)

This session will provide the students an introduction to Thomas Eakins and his use of photography in paintings. The possibility of their project will be explained and the students will then begin brainstorming assorted visual compositions.


1. Introduce the artist, Thomas Eakins, an American realist.
2. Explain the next art project. The students will apply Thomas Eakins technique of photographing to create a painting.
3. Show the video or DVD.
4. After viewing the program, discuss the program with the students.

Possible questions:

What new ways did photography offer painters?
(Answer: The still images recorded the world around them, stopping time and nature, this provided artists with a new scientific method or duplicating.)

How did Eakins use photography?
(Answer: He made his own sequential photographs of moving humans and animals to improve his student’s understanding of locomotion. He used his assistants and students to model multiple images on a single negative. He would also photograph people and placed them into landscapes.)

Do you think that other artists or non-artists would have issues with Eakins use of photography in painting? (Answer: Students opinions)

5. Show artwork where Eakins painted his photography.
Examples: -Mending the Net, 1881
-Shad Fishing at Gloucester on the Delaware River, 1881
6. The student’s assignment will consist of:
A. A simple landscape for the background
B. A picture of a person or part of a person (example: a person standing or a person’s hands, arms and head / shoulder area.)
C. Composition
D. Painting techniques
E. Color Scheme thought process
7. Give students the handout.

Project Handout

1. Plan the composition: the students will decide on (show assorted examples)
a. the landscape
b. the time of day
c. the type of weather condition
d. what type of action the person would be doing and where would it be placed in the composition.

2. Photography: ( The photo portion of the project can occur as a group field trip or as homework – teacher discretion)
a. Take several photos of the same landscape, during the same type of weather condition and at the time of day. (this could be homework for the students)
b. Take several photos of a person or part of a person (Have fun, the person could be hanging upside down, swinging from the monkey bars, sitting in a chair or desk etc…)
c. Select and print one landscape photo and one person photo in color.
i. Note: If the students have access to a computer graphic program they could transpose their picture using the computer or alter the picture using special effects.

3. Creating the painting:
a. Place the photo in front and begin to draw the person, then the landscape.
b. Pay attention to the size of the person compared to the landscape. (Will they be in the foreground, middle ground, or background? How much detail can you see? Is there a lot of contrast, too much negative space etc…)
c. Think of reality when placing the person into the picture.
d. Make adjustments to the landscape or placement of the person to ensure the composition reflects the reality of the physical laws of gravity
e. When painting, pay attention to the light source and shadows. Make sure all the shadows are viewed from the same light source.
f. Remember that the color is dull in the distance and brighter closer up.

Due Date: ________________________

Graded on:
►Overall composition
►Compositionreflects the reality of the laws of gravity
►Capturing reality
►Composition shows a unique perspective
►Use of Elements and Principles of Design

Session 2- Field trip:
1. Set a perimeter of where the students are allowed to go.
2. Take pictures of a person and landscape.
3. Return to print the pictures.
(Here’s a great way to adapt the assignment – this my take a few more days)
a. Use the computer to create two layers
b. One layer of the person and one layer of the landscape.
c. Merge the layers, remove or touch up spots, and you have a final product.

Session 3- Drawing and beginning painting:
1. Lightly draw the person and the landscape making sure that the person fits the “reality” of the law of gravity.
2. Begin to paint the sky – make sure to finish one area before it dries.
a. Remind the students - the objects / background in the picture or in the distant should be dull in color.
b. The objects / foreground in the picture or close up should be bright in color.
c. The middle ground should be in between.

Session 3-5 – Finish painting and evaluation:
1. Students finish painting
2. Sign their work on the front

After students have finished their paintings, facilitate a critique of their work and pose some questions:
- How did working from photographs feel?
- What limitations does the use of photography impose upon the artist?
- How did photography affect the way you composed your artistic expression?

Expanding This Assignment:
-Adapt the assignment, transforming it to a computer graphic assignment.
-Create a sculpture from a photo.
-Write a story or poem, along with the painting or photos.
- In and out of focus study with a camera.
- Change the pictures on a graphics program to enhance the colors or change the picture entirely by rotating a portion of the photo, even create an entirely different effect.

-Philadelphia Museum of Art: ISBN: 0876331428; (September 2001)
-The Metropolitan Museum of Art, website: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eapa/hd_eapa.htm
-Thomas Eakins: Scenes from Modern Life (PBS home programs 2002)
-National Art Education Association
►Students compare the materials, technologies, media, and processes of the visual arts with those of other arts disciplines as they are used in creation and types of analysis

►Students demonstrate the ability to compare two or more perspectives about the use of organizational principles and functions in artwork and to defend personal evaluations of these perspectives.

►Students initiate, define, and solve challenging visual arts problems independently using intellectual skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

►Students apply media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that their intentions are carried out in their artworks.

►Students conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes they use.

►Students communicate ideas regularly at a high level of effectiveness in at least one visual art medium.

National Art Education Association and the national Committee for Standards in the Arts

Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Expanding This Assignment:
-Adapt the assignment, transforming it to a computer graphic assignment.
-Create a sculpture from a photo.
-Write a story or poem, along with the painting or photos.
- In and out of focus study with a camera.
- Change the pictures on a graphics program to enhance the colors or change the picture entirely by rotating a portion of the photo, even create an entirely different effect.
Materials: Whiteboards, Middle School, Printers, Art Tools, Clip Art, Animation
Other Items: 1 Elmo TTO2S / Sonyo PLCXW55A Combo, $1210.00 each, total of $1210.00