PORTRAIT OF A PET – Colour, Texture, Space and Contrast

Students work from a photograph and use a grid to help them paint an expressive portrait of a pet.

Required Time

160 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 9


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour contrast crop grid space texture viewfinder


Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Tempera Paint Crayola Paint Brushes Masking Tape Photograph of a Pet Pencils Rulers Plastic Placemats

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PORTRAIT OF A PET – Colour, Texture, Space and Contrast - Step One

Step One

  1. Tape your paper to a plastic mat.
    - This will keep the paper smooth and flat while you work.
    - When the tape is removed it will create a white border around the painting.  
  2. Draw a horizontal line to divide the paper in half.
  3. Draw a vertical line to divide the paper into 4 quarters.
PORTRAIT OF A PET – Colour, Texture, Space and Contrast - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use 2 'L' shaped pieces of card as a viewfinder.
  2. Place them on the photograph to crop the picture.
  3. Move the viewfinder around until you are happy with the composition of the picture.
  4. Make sure your cropped photograph is roughly the same shape and proportions as your painting paper. 
  5. This is the picture you will be painting.
  6. When you are happy with the placement of the viewfinder tape it in place. 
PORTRAIT OF A PET – Colour, Texture, Space and Contrast - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Divide the photograph into 4 quarters to match the painting paper.
  2. Use this grid to help you draw your animal.
  3. Start in one of the boxes.
    - Look at where the outer edge of the animal begins and ends.
    - Outline the same edge in the matching box on your painting paper.
    - You are using a big grid to help you see the space.
    - Don't worry if it is not perfect.
    - For this painting you just need to block in the main objects to get you started.
PORTRAIT OF A PET – Colour, Texture, Space and Contrast - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Begin painting in areas of colour. 
  2. The photograph is just a way to get started.
  3. Don't be afraid to add effects that are not in the photograph.
  4. Let your imagination guide you.
PORTRAIT OF A PET – Colour, Texture, Space and Contrast - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Build up colour and texture.
  2. Work with areas of contrast to make the animal stand out in the space.
  3. From time to time stop and look at the painting from a distance to see it with fresh eyes. 
  4. When you are satisfied with your work and the paint is dry gently remove the tape.
PORTRAIT OF A PET – Colour, Texture, Space and Contrast - Step Six

Step Six

  1. View your painting with fresh eyes.
    - What do you notice?
    - How many textures do you see?
    - Where do you see contrast?
    - What do you like best about your painting? Why?
    - Who would love this painting? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • draw an animal using a grid and photograph; 
  • create a painting of a pet;
  • use blending and expressive brushstrokes;
  • use contrast to create the illusion of depth;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the paintings.


Have students:

  • select a photograph of something that interests them;
  • enlarge the picture using the Picture This lesson plan available on this website;
  • share their work with a partner.


  1. View a method of setting up paint kits in the Get Ready to Paint  lesson plan available on this website.
  2. Prior to this lesson have students explore blending paints and making expressive brushstrokes using the Exploring Washable Paint lesson plan available on this website.
  3. Download images of artist's paintings featuring expressive paintings of animals from the Internet. For example,
    Jack Russell
  4. Print the clean-up instructions - 1 per group. (Downloads - CLEAN_UP.pdf) 


  1. View and discuss the composition of the pictures. 
  2. Zoom in on parts of the paintings to examine the way paint has been applied in a loose, expressive manner. 
  3. Consider such things as:
    the placement of the animal
    the use of texture, colour and contrast
    the use of  blending to suggest surfaces and dimension
    the types of brushstrokes and application of paint 
  4. Ask students how:
    - they feel about this approach
    - it influences the way they feel about the animal
    - they will use paint in this challenge
  5. Introduce the challenge


The Challenge

  1. Draw an animal using a grid and photograph. 
  2. Create a painting of a pet .
  3. Use blending and expressive brushstrokes.
  4. Use contrast to create the illusion of depth.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  6. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - used a grid to draw my animal
    - blended and mixed colours
    - used expressive brushstrokes
    - used contrasting colours to create the illusion of depth
    - taped the paper to a surface
    - kept the paper is in good condition
  3. Guide students to crop their photograph.
    - Remind them of the compositions they viewed in the paintings. 
    - Encourage them to decide what the most important part of their painting will be.
    - That is what they should focus on.
    - Where will it be placed for maximum effect?
  4. Remind students that the tape will create a border.
  5. Continue to guide students in the preparation of the painting.
  6. Once they are ready to begin painting and before paints are handed out ask them to number off.
    - Hand each table a clean-up sheet that indicates the job each number must do.
    - Go through each job, for example, ‘Hands up if you are number 3 and 4? Your job is to wash the brushes and return them to the bucket at the back of the room.’ 
    - This process ensures that everyone participates in the clean-up and that they know exactly what they have to do as soon as you call clean-up. (Downloads - CLEAN_UP.pdf) 
  7. Cover tables with newspaper. This keeps the tables clean and provides a space to try out paint colours and techniques.
  8. Ask one student from each table to get a paint kit.
    - This student will be responsible for returning the kit in good condition at the end of the lesson.
  9. Observe students as they work.
  10. From time to time ask them to stop and view their work from a bit of a distance so they can see it with 'fresh eyes'.
  11. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Display the completed paintings for a group discussion. Remind students of the challenge.
  2. Ask students to:
    Look closely at the paintings.
    Choose one that interests you for some reason.
    Share thoughts about the work.
  3. During the discussion include references to:
    - Contrast - how it has been used to create depth
    - Movement - how colour and texture get the eye to travel through the whole space
    - Technique - the effects of different painting techniques


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss the paintings – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - PET_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - PET_self-assessment.pdf)