Blending with the Starfish
(an email interview with our Art teacher)

Dear Jo, why did you choose this activity to do with our class? 

I thought it would be fun to work on a large scale art work using some specific techniques. I wanted the main elements to be size, colour and curving lines . Although the instructions are quite specific in some ways, this project still allows you to do some things your own way and put your own individual touch to your work. 

A great example of blending. What skills did you hope us to gain in this activity?

I was mainly concerned with colour blending skills both in oil pastels and in inks.

Colour blending in any medium is a useful technique in making artworks and a great way to learn about which colours work with each other.

How would you explain how to do this to other classes around the world?

Step by step instructions for plant and pot using blended colour

1. On a large sheet of card or paper ( about 20 x 30 ) use a yellow oil pastel to draw a gently curved stem from top to almost the bottom of the page. It can be central or slightly on the diagonal. Make the thickness of the stem by drawing another line parallel to the first so the stem is about 3 to 5 cm wide.

2.  Draw in about 5 leaves, spacing them along them stem so it looks balanced. Make some of the leaves quite large so they go almost to the edges of the paper. Try to make the leaves look gently curving rather than stiff.

3. Draw in a flower pot at the bottom of the page – the plant can be either coming out of the pot or the pot can be next to the plant. Make sure it is a few centimetres up from the bottom edge of the page. The pot should be curved outwards at the sides and may be tall or squat – make it narrower at the mouth and base than around the middle.

4. In the background draw in an oblique line to represent the line of the table or surface on which the pot is sitting. Make the line end higher up the page than where it starts, as this makes it more visually interesting than a straight horizontal line. This line gives the pot something to “sit” on and stops it looking like it’s floating around.

Ella's great blending picture

Tristan's example of blending


5. Colouring – The leaves are coloured in warm tones and the background in cool tones.
LEAVES - On each leaf, start near the stem and starting with yellow gradually blend the colours in 3 bands from yellow to orange to red. You may wish to add a 4th band and make the tips of the leaves purple. Make the colour changes as gradual as possible by overlapping colours as you change from one to another. Colour the stem in the same way, but going vertically up the stem.

POT – Choose two colours plus white for the pot. Use directional lines to shade from the outside edges of the pot  to the centre. Start with the darkest colour, blend to a lighter colour and make the centre front of the pot  white. The white gives the effect of a highlight on a curved surface.

TABLE – Choose two shades of one colour plus white. Blend from white through to dark starting at the closer edge of the table and colouring in directional lines towards the back.

BACKGROUND – Using a white oil pastel divide the background into segments by extending the existing lines of the leaves. In each segment draw different patterns using curved lines. Try squiggles, continuous curving lines, spirals, short curved marks, long curves etc. Use cool coloured liquid water colours such as blue, turquoise, green and yellow to paint wide lines around the plant form. Start with yellow then while it’s wet paint a brush width of green, then blue. You may wish to add a band of purple and magenta also towards the outside edges. Colours should run together, so make sure they will mix well .

How would you catagorise this type of art Jo?

I’m not sure how to categorize this style of picture but it is definitely not realistic. I would tend to call it illustrative or decorative as it uses techniques an illustrator might use when doing pictures for a book or magazine. It is common these days to see decorative art works which use bold colours and shapes so perhaps it could be categorized as “modern decorative” if there is such a style!

5. Do you have a favourite artist who uses this style?

I’m not really up with popular or commercial styles of art but when I introduced this lesson to the class I showed an example of work by Reg Mombassa because he uses very bold shapes with blending of colour from light to dark.(although he uses quite a lot of black and we didn’t)  Reg Mombassa designs for the clothing label “Mambo” and is a cartoonist and illustrator. I wouldn’t say he’s a favourite artist but I do like his blending and his cartoons are pretty funny! 

6. What would you change when you teach other classes this?

I would probably spend a bit more time making sure everyone spent mor time on the background. Perhaps some practice at doing the white linework in the background. I would also demonstrate blending the colours in the background. It could also be helpful to study some actual plants and leaves first to get ideas for the shapes and curving lines.

More Starfish Art