Students will explore the connection between science and art. Students will learn how paints are made using minerals and chemistry and will make their own paint using various pigments and binders. Some students will have had a field trip to the University of Michigan Museum of Art and participated in the “Art Rocks” tour, which introduces the ways in which artists use rocks and minerals to make art, both whole rocks used for sculpture and ground rocks for paint.
National Core Art Standards
Start with a discussion of how paints are made; paint requires a binder + pigment and adjust the discussion to fit the grade level. Ask students how they think painters find and make pigments. What kinds of textures are produced? Does the paint change with time? [the lapis lazuli in the Madonna and Child has darkened]
Review where to find rocks and minerals for pigments. Locate these places on a map (ex: lapis lazuli comes from Afghanistan, ochre from Australia).
Propose that today you will be working in a paint lab and trying to identify the next great binder for their paints. Each student will get a piece of paper, walk around the binders displayed on the “lab” table, and decide which binders they want to use. They will write the name of the binder on the edge of their 3” square papers.
Next, they will take a tiny paper cup and put one teaspoon of their selected potential binder in it and add a ½ teaspoon of tempera. They will stir with a clean paintbrush then make a painterly swoosh on the paper. If there is time, students may do this 2 or 3 times.
Writing Extension: Students will place their painted papers on a largish table so all are visible and none overlap then walk around the table and observe everyone’s samples, comparing intensities, values, textures.
Students will each take a 3 x 5 card and pencil and write a recipe for their new paint using proper spelling of the binders, appropriate abbreviations for measuring spoons, and complete sentences for the directions.
Take home assignment: Students work with grown-ups to find something at home that could act as pigment (cinnamon, makeup powder). Students teach an adult the process using the recipe they wrote in class. They work together to mix with a binder (water, egg, oil or a new idea) and create a painting sample. Bring the painting back to school and share with class.