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color temperature cupcakes lesson

Color Temperature Guided Cupcake Drawing with Art 1

This year, I decided it might be a good practice to try a quick guided drawing to my Art 1 color lessons.  We practiced with Oil Pastels a little using my Oil Pastel worksheets.   I’m not sure what made me decide to try this.  I typically do not like guided drawings.  However, after completing this one, I can REALLY see the benefit of this.  I feel like my students have a much better idea how to approach a more creative oil pastel drawing in the future because they completed these!

So, I decided to devote one whole 90 minute class to do a guided drawing of cupcakes with them.  I gave them 12×12″ colorful paper to choose from.  I used Pacon Tru-Ray Assorted Colors.  These are my favorite construction papers for high school.

I had each student begin with a brown oil pastel.  I love the Cray-pas brand oil pastels, but unfortunately the brown we had in our small packs is a little on the reddish side.  We still used them and they still worked, but a more temperature neutral brown would be better.  I also had some Crayola brand oil pastels and the brown was much better, but I don’t like the quality as much as the Craypas. 

With the reddish brown color, students started with a cylinder/cone hybrid shape, like this:

Next, still using brown, they added more details to make frosting, and the zig-zag folded paper of the cupcake wrapper.  I also instructed them to draw a table line that went behind the cupcake somewhere.

The next step was to add the underpainting.  We selected a direction for our light source and began shading the opposite side lightly with the brown.  For the paper wrapper, you add brown to the dark side and then on every other shape.  You would want to leave the lightest side of the cupcake alone for now! The frosting and the cake get some brown on the darkest side and then fade out a little less than halfway across the cupcake. 

Finally, we get to add color!  Next, I wanted students to work from back to front a little more so we talked about how its often helpful, when possible, for artists to work from background to foreground.

So, students selected two or three colors and their method of blending to color in the background.  In my example here, I used blended gradient to go from red to pink to white.  Most of my students chose to use scumbling blending in their backgrounds.  Who can blame them?  It’s super fun!

Here is a student example at this stage. 

Next I had all the students grab a yellow ochre oil pastel and we began to blend it together with the brown on the cake part of the cupcake.  On the lightest side of the cupcake, we blended to white.

You can see this in the student examples above and below.  

Now, we picked up a bright BLUE oil pastel.  I told them that many artists don’t use black in their artworks because it has a tendency to dull colors.  Instead they choose to make a dark value by mixing a dark brown with a blue.  We also used this time to discuss color temperature in still lifes.  We looked at Wayne Thiebaud artwork like “Boston Creams” (1962) with obvious cool blue shadows.  

So, we sketched out a cast shadow next using a mixture of blue and brown.  

Next, we selected two or three colors and a blending method to use for our table tops.  I made sure to tell students to color directly over their cast shadow to make the shadow really look like it was a shadow on the table.  This method gives the shadow a realistic, transparent look.  You will see this in the finished student examples at the end.

We also used the blue oil pastel to darken in the darkest side of the cupcake fronting and the wrapper.  Then, we selected a color to color in the frosting.  We burnished with that color overtop the brown/blue and lightened the pressure as we approached the light side of the cupcake.  On the light side, we added white to make tints.  The white really makes the colors POP off the color paper!

We also added color to the cupcake wrapper, also lighting the color with white as we approached the lightest side of the cupcake.   Lastly students were encouraged to clean up the edges of the cupcake as oil pastels can sometimes make a fuzzy-edge. 

Here are some of their final results and a few process images! I think they turned out amazing!  

Find my Oil Pastel Worksheets here: 

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Hi, I’m Erin!

I’ve been a high school art teacher at a rural school in WV for the past 14 years. I teach Art 1, AP Art + Design, Art 2 and 3. 
I’m a little obsessed with my sweet husband. Together we have FOUR kids and a rescue dog named Boomer! 
I love a bad pun and terrible dad jokes. I spend time looking at MBTI memes, cooking, listening to serial killer podcasts and Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat. I also teach yoga and indoor cycling. Click the button below to learn more about me. 

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