Impressionist Pear

Lesson Adapted from Art Makes U Smart


Students will create a Post Impressionist effect using daubers, oil pastel, water color and colored pencil. Students will use geometric shapes and a contour line to create an organic shape, while learning how to create highlights and shadows, and how to use oil pastel resist.


Plan and conduct investigations to determine the effect of placing objects in the path of a beam of light.

Explore uses of materials and tools to create works of art/design.

Use art vocabulary to describe choices while creating art.


  1. Explore highlights and shadows around the classroom. Discuss with students what they notice about what direction the light is coming from, and how that affects the way shadows or highlights appear.
  2. Turn out the overhead lights and use a flashlight to demonstrate very obvious highlights and shadows on a pear, or similar object(s). Ask students where the highlights occur? Which side of the object is in the shadow? Which parts of the object are the brightest? Ask students if the object casts it's own shadow?
  3. Next, show students some examples of artwork from Post Impressionist artists such as Vincent van Gogh, or Paul Cezanne. Ask students to observe these paintings and how the artists used outlining and obvious brush strokes to emphasize their subjects. Also, point out how color in some Post Impressionist artwork is used as a form of expression, and was not always realistic.
Still life with lemons on a plate 1887
Still Life with Lemons on a PlateVincent van Gogh Oil on Canvas, 1887


Step 01

Explain to students they will be combining what they've noticed about highlights and shadows on classroom objects as well as Post Impressionist paintings you've showed them to create their own piece of Post Impressionist artwork featuring a pear.

Step 02

Starting with a piece of multi-media paper and a pencil, have students draw a horizontal line across the page, about four inches from the bottom (have students use the width of their hand as a guide for this). This will represent the tablecloth the pear is sitting on.

Step 03

Step 3

Next, draw a large circle that slightly overlaps the tablecloth line you drew in step two. Draw a loose squat triangle on top of the circle. If you like, tilt the triangle a little bit, and this will help it look like a more realistic pear shape in the end. Finish this step by drawing a small sideways oval inside the top of the triangle.

Step 04

Step 4-5

Use a contour line to draw a pear shape around the circle and triangle. Start at the top of the triangle, and draw a slight indent where the triangle and circle shapes join. Also flatten out the bottom just a bit to give a more realistic pear shape. Finally, draw a stem coming out of the small oval at the top of the triangle.

Step 05

Step 5

Now, erase the circle, triangle, and any part of the tablecloth line (from step two) that is inside the pear-shaped contour line.

Step 06

Step 6

Using oil pastels, do the following:Black oil pastel: go over the tablecloth lines on either side of the pear shape.

  • Black oil pastel: go over the tablecloth lines on either side of the pear shape.
  • Yellow or white oil pastel: make a THICK line over the contour line. Also trace the stem and small oval at the bottom of the stem.
  • Highlighting: keep using the same color oil pastels as the outline. Add highlighting as shown to the upper and lower portions of the pear. Curved lines that follow the contour line look most realistic. (Allow students to use the pear and flashlight from the engagement section to look at where highlights and shadows appear again, if they need to.)
  • Little details: use any color of pastels to add little speckles on the pear. Add a small arc line at the bottom of the pear. Go over the stem again with the same color as your speckles, leaving some of the lighter color showing.

Step 07

Step 7

Using colored pencils, do the following:

  • Tablecloth: shade the entire tablecloth with black. Hold the pencil sideways to cover more area in less time, and color in the same direction the whole time. This should be done quickly, as the color just needs to fill the space, it does not need to appear dark.
  • Use two or three colors in the background to emphasize the pear. This time, use short little strokes to fill the background so it will imitate the brush strokes Post Impressionists used. Keep some darker strokes very close to the edge of the pear for emphasis. Watercolor will be going over the colored pencil, so it just needs to fill the space, it does not need to appear dark.
  • Sign your name in colored pencil.

TIP: do these next few steps quickly! It will help the color spread when you add water. Also, adding salt works best when the color is still wet.

Step 08

Step 8

Have cups of water ready and waiting. Using chunky markers, do the following:

  • Choose a main color for your pear, and fill it in completely using curving strokes that follow the shape of the pear. Go over the oil pastel areas as well, and observe how the pastels resist the marker.
  • Use a paint brush to add water to the pear and spread the main color throughout.
  • Use a the complementary color to add in shading, using strokes that follow the shape of the pear. Refer to the color wheel to find which complementary color to use.
  • Use a paint brush to add water to the shaded area, spreading the color to the shadowed area only.
  • To deepen the shadow, use a third chunky marker color to deepen the shadow within the pear. Add more water to blend it and spread it a little into the pear. This will soften the edge of the shadow.
  • While the artwork is still wet, sprinkle salt wherever you would like to see speckles on the pear's skin.

Step 09

Step 9

To create the pear's shadow on the tablecloth, do the following:

  • Use a black chunky marker to create a shadow that goes from the bottom of the center of the pear to the black line you drew with an oil pastel in step seven. Using a paint brush, add water to the shadow and spread it across the bottom of the tablecloth, making sure to leave an untouched area on the highlighted side of the pear.
  • Use the wet-on-wet technique to fill in the background by using a paintbrush to add water to half of the page. Go over the wet side of the paper with a chunky marker. Repeat for the other half of the paper. Keep in mind one side of the background will be darker (shadowed side) and one side will be lighter (highlight side).

Step 10

Step 10

Let your artwork dry, then mount it to a piece of black construction paper to display!

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