Figure Silhouettes


Fritz Scholder (Luiseño, 1937–2005)

Oil on canvas, 80 x 68 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Artist, 1997.6.


  • Introduce principles of design to students.
  • Introduce new terms: figurative and silhouettes.
  • Use of basic sculpture techniques.
  • Use of basic drawing techniques.
  • Use of basic watercolor and oil pastel techniques


CATUN NO. 2, 1986. Manuel Neri (American, born 1930) Bronze with enamel paint, 67 x 19 x 13 1/4 in. Crocker Art Museum Purchase, 1987.4.

Opening Discussion

  • Museum: Introduce yourself and ask students if they have ever been to or heard of the Crocker Art Museum. What is a museum? What do you think would be in a museum? Discuss how the museum has many kinds of art or “mediums.” Artist often use different materials to create their art and often combine different materials. This way of making art, or “technique” of mixing materials, is what we will be doing today.
  • Today, we are going to study the human form. We will be looking at figurative works from the Crocker’s collection, as well as using our own bodies to practice balance, movement, and form. 
  • Show Catun No. 2, Manuel Neri. Begin by having the students describe the sculpture. Ask the following questions: Does this sculpture appear to be representing something or someone? Look at the posture. Does this figure appear to be moving or standing still? Do we see symmetrical, asymmetrical or radial balance? What material do you feel this sculpture is made from? Describe the importance of balance when it comes to the human form.
  • Show Winter’s Blue Cold, Christopher Brown. Allow students to review the work for a few moments. Begin by asking the students what they think this painting is about? Does the painting have movement? Where and how does the painting show movement? Does color have an effect on the viewer, such as creating a mood? Or does color create a contrast among the figures and the background? The figures appear to be a solid color, almost like a silhouette. Describe what a silhouette is to the students. 
  • Show Human in Nature #11, Fritz Scholder. Allow students to review the work for a few moments. Let us observe the form of the figure in this painting. What does this human figure appear to be doing? What about the form is telling you this? Now, let’s look at the background. What does the background do for the viewer? Do you think the artist wanted you to be more focused on the figure or on the background? Artist who focus on figurative works, likes for the viewer to pay close attention to what they have come to understand and analyze of the human form. Therefore, the background might only be a finishing touch or it might just contrast the dark colors Scholder was using for the human form. 
  • Today, we will be working on a 4 part project which requires a lot of listening and following directions. Have students separate into groups and pass out wooden manikins to each table. 
  • First, we are going to play with wooden manikins to understand the human form.  Demonstrate how to create a human form with the manikins and explain to the students that we all have different poses. Depending on the action/movement we are doing, our bodies take up a form. Once the students are done exploring with the wooden manikins, have them decide on a pose they would like to trace for the next activity.  
  • Second, when students are deciding on a pose they would like to trace, pass out materials for the watercolor session. Students will set their wooden manikins aside and explore with watercolors. Demonstrate how to use the watercolors and ask students to create a background using the following techniques: Masking: Using masking tape, have students create a design by masking an area on their paper. Resist: Using oil pastels, have students create lines and shapes. Once they have used both the masking tape and the oil pastels, have students use watercolors. They may peal the tape off when their paper has dried off completely. 
  • While students are finishing up their watercolor backgrounds, start to gather students who are ready to draw silhouettes of their human forms. There will be stations setup all around the classroom with lamps, newsprint paper, white charcoal pencils, and black drawing paper. Have students take turns and practice using newsprint paper before their final trace. When they are ready to trace over black drawing paper, have students take turns and trace around the manikins shadow, creating a silhouette. 
  • When they are done, have the students go back to their seats and cut around their silhouettes. Lastly, they will glue their silhouette on top of their watercolor background. 


  • Guide students as they explore with the wooden manikins. Help them understand the different forms/poses the human body makes. Have them practice with their own classmates by having one person of their group pose for a small amount of time. 
  • While they are explore with the wooden manikins, have students who are ready to move onto the next step, gather their watercolor materials. When they are ready to paint their backgrounds, demo how to use masking and resist techniques, as well as watercolors for their background. Students will do this section together, which will require all their attention and them following directions. 
  • When they have finished their watercolor backgrounds, have each group go to tracing station. Demo in small groups and explain to them that they will be using newsprint first to practice tracing the silhouettes the wooden manikins are making onto the surface of the paper. Have them work together. When they are ready to trace their final silhouette, have them use the black drawing paper.  
  • When they are all down tracing their silhouettes, have them return to their table. Using their scissors, have them cut and glue their silhouettes onto the watercolor backgrounds. 

During the Work Period

  • Help one-on-one, giving explanations and demos as necessary.
  • Give the teacher the teacher resource packet and explain what is inside.
  • Count and log number of students and number of adults served.
  • If you notice the supply boxes are in need of anything, make a note of it to restock later.

Clean Up

  • Everything but their work of art needs to be cleared off the table. All other materials come back to the supply table. Have students check under the floor for any scraps or other materials that need to be put away. When the floor and tables are cleaned, have them sit in front of their artwork so they can move onto the next activity.


  • All, some, or none of these can be done, depending on the class and the remaining time.
  • Tell students that they’re going to move around the room and look at each other’s work. The figure silhouette artwork will stay on their table and they will be the ones moving. There are two rules for this activity: no talking, no touching. It’s a time to look, not talk or touch. Ask them to stand and push their chairs in and stand behind their desk. Remind them once more of no talking and no touching. They can walk around the room and return to their seat when they feel like they’ve seen everything.
  • If they want to share: Have them look at their silhouette artwork. Have them share what they learned throughout lesson. Using new art terms, have them describe their work and why they chose the colors for their background? What pose did they end up using for their silhouette? What did they learn about the human form and did they enjoy this style of art?


  • Thank them for their hard work. Tell them to take their figure silhouette artwork home and share them with their friends and family. 
  • Explain the family passes, if they’re getting them. Encourage them to visit the Crocker to see the artworks they saw today.


  • Mixed Media Paper
  • 9 X 12 in. Drawing Paper (Black)
  • White Charcoal Pencils
  • Newsprint Paper
  • Watercolors
  • Oil Pastels
  • Masking Tape
  • Brushes
  • Water cups
  • Towels
  • Wipes
  • Scissors
  • Glue Sticks
  • Lamps (6 to 8)
  • Wooden Manikins (6 to 8)


90 Minutes

Grade Level



  • Math
  • Visual Art


  • Collaborative
  • Drawing
  • Kinesthetic
  • Painting
  • People


  • Pencil
  • Watercolor Paint


Crocker Art Museum

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