This month’s lesson is a little different in that we have an excellent picture book biography for Edward Hopper. For the younger grades, just read the book. For the older grades, if you have time, you may want to ask if there are questions or share some of the basic facts below as you talk with the students after. I will leave them in bullet form for easy reference.
*Born July 22, 1882, in Nyack, New York (a small shipbuilding community on the Hudson River.) You can see this influence in his many nautical themed works. He loved the sea.
*He was the younger of two children in an educated middle-class family. His family was supportive of his art.
*At age 5, people were noticing his natural talent.
*Hopper trained as an illustrator and devoted much of his early career to advertising and etchings. (He has been quoted on it being confining work though.)
*After moving to New York City, Hopper began to paint the commonplaces of urban life with still, anonymous figures, and compositions that evoke a sense of loneliness.
*He was able to make several trips abroad to Paris and Spain in the early 1900s. He loved the impressionists, especially Manet and Monet and Cezanne. Their work highly influenced his.
*He took the Impressionist fascination with light and used it in a much more detailed and realistic way. Critics dubbed it “soft realism”
*In 1924, he married Josephine Nivison, who was also a painter and the two worked side-by-side for the rest of their lives. She was almost always the model in his pictures and was often called his muse.
“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.” -Edward Hopper
Talk to the students about this quote and what they think it means. Ask them to look at his work and notice the clean lines, dramatic light, and emotional quality of the work. Point out that he was trying to help us see the world as he saw it. Encourage the students to take time and do the same thing on their canvases.
(**For younger grades I would hold up one or two of the paintings and say “Look at how crisp the lines are. There isn’t a lot of stuff in this painting. Why do you think Edward Hopper did that? What kind of feeling does this give you?” Maybe pare it down even more for k-first.)
This month, the students get to paint a canvas board. There is only 1 per student. They can pain over any mistakes, but can’t start again. Walk them through these steps:
1. Think of a place you like or a place that has a strong emotion tied to it. (Show Rooms by the Sea. Encourage the kids to paint something from life that they know well. Tell them that real artists don’t tend to paint a pretty landscape with flowers and a sun in the corner.)
2. Very lightly sketch where you want the details on your board. Only put in the broadest details! Do not draw a lot and try to draw very lightly because the pencil lead tends to smear in the paint.
3. Now start with the background, put in the sky and surrounding ground.
4. Work from the back to the front of your painting. (ie. If you are making a person, paint in the face, then the hair, then go back in and add facial features after the skin tone has had a bit of time to dry. For a landscape, put in the sky, the grass and then go back in and put the trees or the swingset. Etc.)
5. Don’t forget to put your name on the back (and sign the front if desired).
Tell the students that these canvas boards are used by real artists and hopefully are something they will take home and hang in their houses. They can be framed easily in an 8×10 frame (just remove the glass so it can breath.)
Thanks again for all you do! Let me know if you need anything!