Lesson Plan: Master Pieces Collaborative Mural - Color Theory

Master Pieces: Collaborative Mural

Submitted by: Mark Alan Anderson, Oak Park High School in Missouri
UNIT: Color - Contemporary Art (Chuck Close)
Grade Level: middle school (shown 8th grade)

Alternate Lesson: Tile Mural from Kim McSherry
More mural ideas on IAD


Lesson Summary:

Students create a master work mural from matrix grid. Prior to this lesson, students have had color theory and know all of the color plans and what colors work best to match the value scale (high key and low key colors). This unit works as a review - and could be a "hands on" quiz.


This lesson builds a sense of "community" - all parts are needed to make a whole. All student work is exhibited. This would make a nice display for open house/parent night - or for a wall display announcing up coming art show (later in the year).


Students become familiar with contemporary artist, Chuck Close.



8th grade student example (Actual work was might brighter - more colorful)


  • TLW develop skills that improve observational drawing and build an awareness of proportional relationships.

  • TLW collaborate with students in the classroom and school environment to create a collective artwork.

  • TLW utilize the elements of art in a variety of art materials.

MoSTEP Standards

  • FA1 Process and techniques for the production, exhibition or performance of one or more of the visual or performed arts.

  • FA2 The principles and elements of different art forms.

  • FA3 The vocabulary to explain perceptions about and evaluations of works in dance, music, theater and visual arts.


Matrix, grid, complementary color, analogous color, collaboration, primary color, monochromatic



6" x 8" (15 x 20.3 cm) Drawing Paper., Drawing Pencils., Kneaded Rubber Erasers., Oil Pastels., Charcoal., Tempera Paint., other materials as deemed appropriate.. Exemplars: Chuck Close matrix artworks.



Chuck Close Online (See a Chuck Close lesson on IAD)
Book: Chuck Close: Up Close. by Jan Greenberg - A biography written for children
DVD: Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress.




Select a well known work of art. (one with a lot of textural brush strokes works best)

Make an 11" x 17" (28 x 43 cm) black and white photocopy – make sure it is light enough to show detail throughout the entire image.


Lightly grid the photocopy off into a matrix in which each block is a 3:4 proportion (see figure 1).

On the back side of the gridded photocopy, number each block in sequence so that each has a unique identifier. (I photocopy the numbered back side for later reference to avoid confusion.)


Use an X-acto Knife. to carefully and exactly trim each block out. (see figure 2)


Put each numbered photocopy block into fishbowl number one.


Prepare small slips of paper, each labeled with one of the following: monochromatic, complementary colors, primary colors, analogous colors, charcoal, Colored Pencils.., tempera paint, etc. (slips for each color color and for each medium used. Provide enough slips for all student in class) You decide how many different media you want to use. Alternate idea would be to limit to one medium (i.e. all do tempera - or oil pastel on black paper might be interesting)


Place each slip of paper into fishbowl number two (students will choose at random - a color plan strip or media strip)



Open with a slide show of large matrix Chuck Close artworks. Be sure to show images from a distance as well as close ups. Discuss the illusion of detail created by Close’s matrix of painted information: each block is unique yet, collectively, they form a visual "whole."


Chuck Close prints

Book: Chuck Close: Work. - This book offers the first comprehensive critical examination of one of America's most celebrated living artists.


2 Figure 1

(Left: Starry Night. by Van Gogh)

Have students choose one matrix block from fishbowl number one.


In their journal, students should clearly record the number from the back of their selected photocopy piece.

Using glue, they should then affix the photocopy piece securely into their journal above the number. (This helps to avoid the problem of small pieces of paper getting lost… and totally gumming up the works!)


Have students choose one slip of paper from fishbowl number two and again glue it into their journal (student will have selected a medium to use or color plan -the third element is his/her own choice)


Explain that each student will create a unique and abstracted artwork, that every learner’s tools and assignment will vary – but that when they are presented together something very special will happen visually. Do not tell learners what their images will collectively form.


Distribute 6" x 8" (15 x 20.3 cm) pieces of drawing paper.


Explain that each learner must enlarge and reproduce the details of the small photocopy from bowl number one, being observant of proportion and value. However, learners will need to apply the color scheme or use the material selected at random from bowl number two.


Learners are always very curious about what their image will form. Some may even guess accurately – I encourage this speculation but do not tell them. This keeps interest high.


I usually teach at least three sections of 8th grade Art and I have all of my classes working on segments of the mural simultaneously. When I grid out the original photocopy I try to make the blocks small enough so as not to give away the secret of the original, yet large enough to show detail and to be easily observed. Usually my students will have to generate two or three blocks so that we have enough pieces to complete the entire puzzle – I have to carefully gauge the number of grid blocks against my enrollment (and plan contingencies for when some kids, invariably, are out of class and to avoid having any holes in the final construction.)


Depending upon how many grid pieces each student is required to complete, the number of days of production time will vary considerably.


Display In the past, when all pieces have been completed, I carefully attach each grid piece to the hallway wall with wax after students have left for the day. This ensures a great surprise on their arrival the next day. Another way to build the mural is to have a prepared area of the wall covered with white paper that has an accurate grid lightly penciled and numbered. As each student completes a grid piece they can attach it to the background, allowing the mural to reveal itself one piece at a time.


3 Figure 2

Alternate Idea:

Portrait of Principal

Students might enjoy doing a portrait of their principal (don't let on who or what it is). Take a good photograph with some contrast - and experiment with some texture filters (get some brush stroke effects). Follow same directions above.

See related lessons



Teacher presents a multi-media presentation on Chuck Close

Teacher presents a follow presentation on Vincent Van Gogh (or whatever artist is chosen for mural)

Students do a WebQuest to find out more about selected artist.
Vincent Van Gogh Resources.


Lesson Copyright © 2005 by Mark Alan Anderson. Permission is granted for art teachers to use - adapt. Permission is not granted for publication elsewhere. Contact Mark Anderson for permission to publish.


Alternate Lesson Idea: Tile Mural


.Submitted by: Kim McSherry
Peoria Academy

Grid Enlargement Tile Mural

All students at Peoria Academy participated in a grid enlargement project focusing on art of Georgia O'Keeffe. Shown is the tile mural made by 8th graders for a permanent installation. Other grade level work was temporary.

Kim describes their process: Pick a piece of art work you wish to enlarge. Draw a grid out on the art piece taking into consideration the number of students in a class.


After grid is drawn, turn over paper and number the grids and then cut out the squares. Once squares are measured and cut, have drawing paper measured, numbered, cut and ready to hand out. This paper should be in proportion with the piece the students will be drawing. The math teachers are great at helping with the measurements. Instruct the students to draw in pencil on the blank piece of paper exactly what they see from the art piece they have. The younger students need to know they have to draw very very big. It helps to put the students together so they can match their lines up. We instructed them to put their papers together and draw together.


When finished we gave them crayons, Pastels., or paints depending on the grade level. We instructed them to paint their piece exactly like they see on their art square. When finished we put the finished pieces together and the kids are amazed how they have enlarged a picture. With 8th grade we used tile and decorated one of our water fountains with this beautiful art piece the students created through grid art. For the tile mural, we used glass or tile paint that you can get from any craft store. I used a Clear outdoor tile sealer that can be purchased at any home improvement store. We mounted on the wall just as you would mount any wall tile (using traditional tile adhesive). Note: Kim found this practice worksheet (Archive) helpful in getting the students to understand drawing what they see in the grid.



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