Achromatic Scale Fish- A lesson plan

Matt Duffin, Crowd Control, 2006. Encaustic on illustration board, Crocker Art Museum


Students will mix black and white paint to expand understanding on value of color. Students will paint fish using two shapes.


About the Artist

Matt Duffin was born in 1968 and grew up in Houston, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Houston. He never practiced as an architect, choosing instead to become an artist. Through art, he found that he could easily combine his tendency toward right angles and perspective drawing with the more human themes of solitude and irony. Over time, his medium has evolved from charcoal to encaustic wax, but he continues to dwell in the realm of dark recesses and stark contrasts. (1)




Introduce scale. Introduce value. How can we use paint to make colors lighter/darker?

Warm Up:

Practice drawing fish using two shapes: triangle and oval; add details (fins, scales, tail lines); draw a large fish; draw a small fish; draw a fish with its mouth open.


  • On half of your paper, draw a school of small fish, at least 1 – 2
  • On the other half, draw a large fish with its mouth open, big enough to eat the whole school.
  • Mix five shades of gray;
  • Paint your fish.


Adapting and Expanding

-Pre-mix the different shades of grey

-Use lighter shades to add bubbles

-Create cardboard cutouts to use as stencils.

-Cut out fish designs from sponges. Students may choose to use sponge painting instead of creating the shapes

-Continue a unit on value: Mix five shades of any primary or secondary color, and create a monochromatic still life painting.


CA State Standards

Visual Arts

Creating—Anchor Standard 2: Organize and Develop Artistic Ideas and Work

Creating—Anchor Standard 3: Refine and Complete Artistic Work


Kinder: K.G.2 Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size; K.G.3 Identify shapes as two-dimensional (lying in a plane, “flat”) or three-dimensional (“solid”).

2nd grade: (with math integration extension) 2.G.1 Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces


Kinder-2nd grade: Because there is always more than one possible solution to a problem, it is useful to compare and test designs. (K–2-ETS1-3)



Student example:


(1) Matt Duffin Art


  • White cardstock (8.5 x 11 or 12 x 18)
  • Pencil
  • Paint brushes
  • White and black tempera paint
  • Paper plates or palettes for mixing


30 minutes

Grade Level



  • Visual Arts


  • Color
  • Painting
  • Shape / Form
  • Simple Materials


  • Colors
  • Paint
  • Painting
  • Paper
  • Pencil


Mollie Morrison (adapted by Brittany Thurman)