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Abstract Cityscapes | Arts & Activities
Feb 2018

Abstract Cityscapes

Abstract Cityscapes

Every year, my fourth-grade students study the history of their state, Rhode Island, with their classroom teachers. These studies include an annual field trip to the state’s capital city of Providence. This opportunity for the children to explore the largest city in our state, was the perfect inspiration to study cityscapes in the art room!

We began our cityscape exploration with a look at Philip Evergood’s painting, The Sunny Side of the Street, John Sloan’s, The City from Greenwich Village, and Picasso’s painting, Le Café a Royan. Students compared and contrasted the three paintings. We discussed the differences between realistic and abstract elements, and students brainstormed various approaches to creating their own cityscapes.

We talked about ways they could include the use of shape and line in their pictures, and the use of color to represent both the mood, time of day, and weather.

Together, we analyzed the cubist style in Picasso’s picture, how he arranged his shapes and how he value shaded the colors within them. The students collaborated on how they might incorporate these elements into their own cityscape.

Pencil in hand, I began to review with the students how to use their rulers to create the lines and shapes to begin their “Abstract Cityscapes.” We recalled how incorporating foreground, middle ground, and background space, would help to create depth in their sketches. The children were excited to incorporate into their pictures the tall buildings, bridges, and waterways they had seen on their trip to Providence.

Once their pencil sketches were complete, students traced their lines with permanent marker and began thinking about the colors they wanted to use for their picture. We talked about how the use of different colors could affect the mood of their city. Yellow, pink, and orange, for example, would create a happy city as opposed to gray, brown, and black creating a darker, colder city.

Value shading with colored pencils was discussed as students began shading lightly with one pencil then slowly began applying more pressure to darken the color. Finally, they pressed so hard, that they might break the pencil’s point. If they did, we just sharpened them again!

The background was shaded last, with the children choosing what time of day and weather they wanted to create. The students enjoyed sharing their beautiful pictures with each other, reflecting on the choices they made and the parts they were most proud of.

The children’s finished abstract cityscapes were amazing and they were a wonderful reminder of their capital city—Providence! 













Elementary students will …
• compare and contrast paintings of cityscapes by different artists.
• create an abstract cityscape using lines and shapes.
• experiment with color to incorporate a mood, time of day, or weather, into their picture.
• explore value shading with colored pencils.
• reflect on their piece and share it with their classmates.

• CREATING: Brainstorm multiple approaches to a creative art or design problem

• 9″ x 12″ white drawing paper
• Pencils, erasers, rulers
• Permanent markers
• Colored pencils

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Sarah Hemendinger teaches art at Hopkins Hill School in Coventry, Rhode Island.


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