Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tasty Thiebauds

 One of my favorite parts of teaching is that I get to learn along with the kids. I first came upon a lesson about Wayne Thiebaud's bold oil paintings of cakes and pies a few years ago, and it remains one of my favorite projects each year. And Thiebaud is alive and well, and still painting (as far as I know)!

I love this guy. Interviews with him are so inspiring and his work never gets old. My kids love this project and gobble up all the learning that goes with the making.

We spend the first part of our initial class talking about Thiebaud (and touching on Pop Art, especially since Andy Warhol is a former resident of semi-nearby Pittsburgh, PA, where I did my student teaching). The kids take the rest of class to sketch, focusing on proper cylinder formation, with those tricky ellipses forming the curvature of the cakes.

On the second day, students transfer their sketches onto 12 x 18" black paper. They have the option to create a tiered cake or take out a slice, though both are optional.

Then comes the coloring, which typically takes us 2 full 45-minute classes to complete. We use oil pastels, which totally rock on the black paper!

This cake is movie theater-themed!

At the end of the project, I do some shading and shadowing demos and let the kids do their own thing. I'll post the finished products soon!

It's not a one-of-a-kind project, but I think that putting it on black paper helps to make the cakes stand out. At the start, my fifth graders always question using black paper, but always end up loving it--it's like I know what I'm doing or something. ;-)

If you don't know much about Thiebaud, some resources I've used include:
CBS Sunday MorningThiebaud - a great video to show the kids, though I do have to black out the part where Thiebaud is speaking in front of the painting of a nude couple!
KQED Spark - another interesting video - chastising me for associating Thiebaud for Pop Art, ha
The National Gallery of Art Classroom

UPDATE: Check out some of our finished products here!


  1. Are those Crayola oil pastels? Right now I use Craypas oil do the Crayola ones hold up/compare?

    1. Yep, good observation! I've always used Craypas as well as the Pentel brand, and I like both. This year I added in Crayola and I LOVE them. Big difference and worth the price, in my opinion. I am very pleased with how they hold up and cover, and they're very smooth. Great color choices in the 28-pack, too!

  2. Wait a minute. I've shown the Sunday Morning video and never noticed the nude couple....ekkkk...I just looked for it I blind? Which part of the movie is it at? Well crud, I wonder how many of my kids saw it and I totally missed it. Haha.

    1. Confession: I just noticed it this year and I've been showing it for years! I highly doubt that any of our kids saw it since we didn't.

      It starts at 6:15. There is an exposed... nether region... to the right of the man introducing Wayne Thiebaud. Once you see it, you can't stop seeing it!

    2. Oh gosh!!! :-/