Art Lesson: Painting with Dots - Kirkland Style

Painting with Dots - Kirkland Style

Submitted by: Jean Hiza
Art teacher at St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, Colorado
Grade level: Middle & High school and adapted for Elementary


Goals / Objectives:

  • To study Vance Kirkland’s style of painting

  • To compare and contrast Aboriginal styles to Kirkland’s style

  • To study pointillism and other painting with dots in art history

Materials Needed:

Click on the images for full size

student samplestudent sample


Lesson Description:

  1. student sampleDiscuss and view Aborigine and pointillism art. Collect – painting with dots - from Google images for more examples. Discuss the art of painting with dots.

  2. View PowerPoint ppt of Vance Kirkland’s style of paintings. Discuss color schemes, form and movement.

  3. Have student paint background on heavy paper or Paper Canvas.. May be solid or patterned.

  4. While paint is drying- have students sand their tools. I score bamboo skewers (sold in kitchen ware departments) with scissors- then snap them apart. Students need to sand the ends. I also get various diameters of wooden dowels – cut to 3 inch (2.5 cm) lengths- and have them sand them. If you use Q Tips- cut off the cotton. (Keep reusing the Q Tip- as the extra paint "build up" on the end adds dimension to the dotting)

  5. Take a large card board box and place painted paper inside. Mix paint to heavy cream consistency and with a water color brush (it holds more paint) splatter paint on background. Carefully remove.

  6. Mix colors and put into little containers. Start dotting creating form and lines. The painting is made up of little dots with large dots only for accents.

  7. Dots must be tight and close together to create form and lines.

  8. Color scheme and values add expressive lines and emphasis.



Vance Kirkland 1904 - 1981. - Vance Kirkland was a fine, mysterious American painter whose unique abstract methods were not discovered and appreciated until after he died. He is famous for is masterful realist and surrealist watercolor, gouache and Casein Colors. paintings.


Georges Seurat, 1859-1891: The Master of Pointillism. - As a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Seurat read Chevreul's 1839 book on the theory of colour and this, along with his own analysis of Delacroix' paintings, led him to formulate the concept of Divisionism. This was a method of painting around colour contrasts in which shade and tone are built up through dots of paint (pointillism) that emphasize the complex inter-relation of light and shadow.



Vance Kirkland's Visual Language. [VHS] - A documentary on the life and work of Colorado's distinguished painter, Vance Kirkland. Shot on location in Kirkland's Denver studio and in several museums, the documentary includes video and audio interviews and archival photos of Kirkland, and dramatic recreation of some of his unorthodox painting techniques.



Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art- A major survey of Colorado art history is documented, with over 170 artists represented by more than 700 works.

Vance Kirkland Online- Artsyclopedia's page on his life and works.

NASA Art, 50 Years of Exploration - Includes an article on Vance Kirkland: The Mysteries of Space and his art.

Vance Kirkland pdf - This great PDF that has the biography and works of Vance Kirkland by Mesa County Valley SD 51.

Vance Kirkland- An online slide show on the Vance Kirkland Tribute Exhibit.

IAD's Pointilator- Create an online painting in the pointillism style.



See rubric doc (Also below)


Creating a Painting : Vance Kirkland's style of dotting Rubric








Capturing A Style/Artist

Paint is applied in a manner very consistent with the tight patterned technique of Vance Kirkland

Paint is applied in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the technique of Vance Kirkland.

An attempt has been made to apply paint in a manner that is consistent with the technique of Vance Kirkland, but it is not effective.

No attempt has been made to apply paint in a manner that is consistent with the technique of Vance Kirkland.


Color Choices

Choice and application of color shows an advanced knowledge of color relationships. Color choice enhances the art work.

Choice and application of color shows knowledge of color relationships. Colors are appropriate for the art work.

Choice and application of color shows knowledge of color relationships. Colors are, however, NOT appropriate for the art work.

Student needs to work on learning color relationships and using that knowledge in art work.


Painting Skill

Application of paint is done in logical, sharp, & crisp sequential manner.

Paint is applied in a careful, logical manner. Color dots remain sharp.

Control is somewhat lacking. A few smears, ragged edges and failure of certain areas of pattern may be evident.

Student needs to work on controlling paint and paint application. Smeared paint, ragged edges, uneven and/or thin dots are evident throughout the painting.



Student has taken the technique being studied and applied it in a way that is totally their own. Shows great skill with color choice & style.

Student has taken the technique being studied and has used source material as a starting place. Shows some skill with color choice & style.

Student has attempted to create a painting from the source material. There is little evidence of creativity, but the student has done the assignment.

Student has not made much attempt to meet the requirements of the assignment.



Class time was used wisely. Much time and effort went into the planning and painting. It is clear the student worked all class period.

Class time was usually used wisely. Student could have put in more time and effort.

Class time was not always used wisely; student did clean up early or hang out instead.

Class time was not used wisely and the student put in no additional effort. Student cleaned up early, texted, or didn't produce.



National Visual Arts Standards Covered (From ArtsEdge):

Content Standard: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Achievement Standard

* Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of art
* Students describe the function and explore the meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times, and places
* Students analyze relationships of works of art to one another in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture, justifying conclusions made in the analysis and using such conclusions to inform their own art making

* Students analyze and interpret artworks for relationships among form, context, purposes, and critical models, showing understanding of the work of critics, historians, aestheticians, and artists
* Students analyze common characteristics of visual arts evident across time and among cultural/ethnic groups to formulate analyses, evaluations, and interpretations of meaning


Content Standard: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Achievement Standard

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



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