Creative Expression - Artmaking

Lesson Title:
Creative Expression - Artmaking

Lesson Goal and Description:
Students will create a mural design based on a social issue that they find compelling. In groups students will brainstorm various social issues and imagery and symbolism that could represent the message they are trying to portray. Then they will create 3-5 rough sketches of possible compositions for their mural. Then, the students will vote within their groups to determine what composition they would like to enlarge for their mural. The murals will measure 54” x 72” when completed. Finally the students will create their mural; the students will use their rough sketch as a reference and enlarge the imagery onto their mural, using acrylic paint, the students will render their mural imagery in full color, keeping in mind color relationships, value, unity, and harmony. 

Grade Level:
High School - Beginning

Time Frame:
9 - 2 hour class periods

Focus Artwork:


Sugarcane, 1931, mural, fresco on concrete, Diego Rivera (1886-1957)


Teacher Example

Objectives/Student Learning Outcomes:
Students will be able to…

  • Work collaboratively in groups to come up with a social issue to represent in their mural assignment.
  • Accurately reproduce the imagery, iconography, and symbolism they have chosen for their design, using the grid method to copy the composition.
  • Apply the techniques of contour line drawing to carefully observe and draw objects.
  • Mix primary paint colors to achieve a range of hues, tints, tones, and shades in the work.
  • Employ the design principle of unity and bring together a cohesive final design.

Art Materials and Tools:

  • Sketchbook paper for sketching
  • 54” x 72” pieces of cardboard for the mural paintings
  • Acrylic paint
  • Brushes
  • Cups for water
  • Paper plates for mixing colors
  • Paper towels

Instructional Resources:

  • Reproductions of Diego Rivera’s murals for inspiration
  • Student and teacher artwork examples
  • Reference images - students to bring their own

Anticipatory Set

  • Teacher asks the students to think of a social issue of importance to them giving examples of the environment, racism, equal pay for women, education, etc and what symbolism and imagery represents this topic.
  • Direct Instruction
  • Teacher discusses how the symbols can send a powerful message, especially when represented on a larger scale, such as a mural.
  • Teacher states that the goal of the student artwork will be to create a mural depicting their social issue and a change that they want to occur within that theme. Teacher lets the students know they will be painting their own murals using acrylic paints.
  • Teacher shows the students murals by Diego Rivera depicting social issues and asks students what is Rivera emphasizing with his chosen imagery.
  • Teacher shows student artwork examples and asks students what they think is being communicated and why.
  • Teacher reminds the students of the three steps to complete their art projects: 1. Brainstorming, 2. Rough Sketching, 3. Artmaking. These steps are written on the board.
  • Teacher breaks the class into groups and explains the first step of the project: brainstorming. Each group will brainstorm various social issues that are important to them, as well as writing imagery and symbols that can represent their ideas. The students may use their phones or tablets to research or find imagery.

Guided Practice

  • Students begin to brainstorm within their groups. Teacher walks around the room to answer questions and ensure students are on the right track.
  • Students will need to finish their brainstorming and figure out their social issue and imagery by the end of the class period. 
  • Guided Practice
  • Students begin working on their rough sketches within their groups. Teacher walks around the room to answer questions and ensure students are on the right track.
  • Independent Practice
  • Students may work on their rough sketches at home. They will have one hour to complete them in class before starting the mural portion. 

Anticipatory Set

  • Teacher gets students into groups and has them work on their rough sketches. The rough sketches will be due at the end of the class. 

Guided Practice

  • Teacher then explains the next step: rough sketches. Within their groups, the students must produce 4-5 rough sketches of possible designs for their murals. Teacher shows student examples of rough sketches. Teacher also asks students to recall tips for creating a good composition.
  • Students continue to work on their rough sketches. Teacher walks around the room to answer questions and ensure students are on the right track.
  • Teacher makes comments and gives critique based on what the students are working on. 
  • Students finish their sketches and teacher walks around the room to check completion.

Independent Practice

  • Students who do not finish in class may finish their rough sketches as homework.

Anticipatory Set

  • Teacher explains that the students will get into their groups to discuss, critique, and vote on the composition they would like to create as their mural.

Direct Instruction

  • Teacher tells students that within their groups, to discuss and critique their compositions and choose which one they want to create as a mural. Then, the students are to get clearance from the teacher for their final composition.

Guided Practice

  • Students begin critiquing their sketches within their groups, remembering the elements and principles of design. Teacher walks around the room to answer questions, listen to critiques, and make sure students are staying on track.
  • Students will decide on their final composition and get clearance from the teacher. 
  • Students will come to the following class prepared to begin their murals.

Anticipatory Set

  • Students get into their groups. Teacher explains that they will be beginning the mural assignment today starting with the contour line drawing of their design, using the grid method.
  • Direct Instruction
  • Teacher explains the next portion of the assignment: artmaking. Teacher shows the example of Diego Rivera’s mural, reiterating emphasis, unity, and color. 
  • Teacher asks the students to recall the grid method drawing exercise they completed in their skill building unit.
  • Teacher asks the students to recall how to look for simplified shapes and the shape relationships of their designs and compositions, using the grid as reference points.
  • Teacher does a demonstration on the whiteboard, showing how to translate a smaller rough sketch to a larger area by enlarging a grid. Teacher shows how to see the simplified shapes, shape relationships, and create the contour line drawing of the composition.
  • Teacher distributes cardboard, brushes, cups, burnt umber acrylic paint, and paper towels.
  • Teacher explains proper clean up techniques.

Guided Practice

  • Students begin working on their contour line drawings for their murals. Students execute the contour line drawings with their groups using the grid method. 
  • Teacher walks around the room to answer questions, check execution, and make sure everyone is staying on track.
  • Students clean up their paints and areas before leaving class. 

Anticipatory Set

  • Teacher tells the students to work for 30-40 minutes to finish up their contour line painting, as they will be moving on to painting in the mural today.

Guided Practice

  • Students finish their contour line paintings within groups. Teacher checks for completion.

Direct Instruction

  • Teacher explains the next step will be to add color to their murals. Teacher asks students to recall what they have learned about color, reviews color mixing and color vocabulary. 
  • Teacher shows examples of student work and leaves them around the room for the students to reference.
  • Teacher emphasizes the technique of starting with large areas and working down to the details. 
  • Teacher distributes brushes, acrylic paint, water cups, and paper towels.
  • Teacher reiterates proper cleaning techniques.

Guided Practice

  • Students use the remainder of the class to work on adding color to their murals. Teacher walks around the room to answer questions, check accuracy, and make sure students are on track.
  • Students clean up at the end of the period.

DAY 6-7
Guided Practice

  • Students continue to add color to their mural paintings. Teacher walks around the room to answer questions, check accuracy, and make sure students are staying on track.

Guided Practice

  • In their groups, students will look at another group’s painting and give the group feedback about their progress and what they could improve. 
  • Students continue to work on their murals with this critique in mind.

Guided Practice

  • Students finish painting their murals for the first 30 minutes of class and allow them time to dry. 
  • While murals dry, students clean up their brushes, paint, and areas.
  • Students complete a gallery walk and look at their classmates murals and assessing what they were successful at and what the messages of the murals are. 
  • Teacher helps to facilitate a discussion about the subject matter of the murals. 


  • Students assess their artwork by marking the criteria that they met on the rubric. 

Accommodations and/or Modifications:

  • English Language Learner: partner with a group of English speaking students and have them work together. Check in at times to make sure that the ESL student is actively participating in the group brainstorm and painting task. Provide written instructions with the steps of the assignment, so they may translate the instructions to their native language through translation software. 
  • Learning Disabilities: partner with a group that has at least one gifted and talented member and have them guide the student with disabilities through the discussion process. Check in on the group work to make sure that the student is participating. If available, assign an adult aide to help them stay on task.
  • Gifted and Talented: if the student is showing mastery of drawing or acrylic painting techniques, have them use more value and modeling on their areas of the painting. Also, the student may demonstrate their proficiency for the class to help others through peers-teaching-peers. 

Multiple Intelligences Used:

  • Interpersonal: addressed through class discussion, collaborative work in groups, and peer assessment of the final artwork.
  • Visual/Spatial: addressed through brainstorming symbols and imagery for a social issue, translating a small design into a larger area, and executing the mural composition.


  • Contour line - (noun): a continuous, single line drawing that follows the edges of objects
  • Color scheme - (noun): a pleasing, intentional arrangement of colors used in a composition
  • Hue- (noun): pure color (i.e. red, yellow, blue)
  • Tint - (noun): color + white
  • Tone - (noun): color + gray
  • Shade - (noun): color + black
  • Mute - (noun): color + compliment, desaturated color
  • Harmony - (adjective): a condition in which the elements of an artwork appear to fit well together. 

Criteria for Assessment:
Did students….

  • Work successfully in their group to create a strong concept for their social issue mural?
  • Accurately reproduce imagery, iconography, and symbolism in their design?
  • Successfully apply the concept of contour line drawing in the preliminary stages of their mural, remembering shape relationships?
  • Successfully mix their acrylic paint colors to create a harmonious composition with various tints, tones, shades, and mutes of colors?
  • Employ the design principle of unity effectively in their designs?

Method of Assessment:

  • During studio time, as the students are working, the teacher will monitor the progress of the students to ensure they are working and on track for completely the project and meeting the objectives. Teacher will clarify instructions, answer questions, re-teach, or modify lessons, when needed (formative assessment). 
  • Students will earn participation points for staying on task during studio time and working collaboratively with their groups during the assignment and critiques. The brainstorms and rough sketches will be evaluated based on their completion, according to the instructions, and the artwork will be evaluated according to the rubric (summative assessment).

California Visual Arts Standards:

  • Creative Expression
    • 2.1 Solve a visual arts problem that involves the effective use of the elements of art and the principles of design.
    • 2.4 Review and refine observational drawing skills
    • 2.6 Create a two-dimensional work of art that addresses a social issue.

For a PDF version of the Artmaking Lesson, click here

For a rubric associate with the Artmaking Lesson, click here.