Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

Please click on my page to see my personal artwork and artist statement: http://thehelpfulartteacher.blogspot.com/p/the-art-of-rachel-wintembe.html

Please contact me at thehelpfulartteacher@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The tree below fills the frame. The trunk and branches go off of the edge of the page on all sides.

Let's simplify the image so we can look at the negative shapes. I removed the color and increased the contrast. Let's ignore the leaves and just look at the branches.

In this 'Figure/Ground' picture, every part of the background forms a shape. The figure goes off the page on all sides, dividing the space into interesting shapes.

Now let's have some fun with contrasting colors. Black is a very dark color, so let's use some bright orange for contrast.

Take photographs of the trees around you. Make sure to zoom in so the branches go off the edge of the paper and divide the negative space in an interesting way.

Then use two  sheets of construction paper with contrasting colors and create your own 'figure/ground'  cut out designs.

Here is a printable handout with simple directions for this project:

If it's not practical for you to photograph your own trees, try finding and cropping some photos of trees from  magazines or from the Internet.  Or feel free to use my images to get you started.

When you first start making figure/ground tree cut outs, ignore the leaves and smallest branches and just concentrate on the larger shapes. Focus on how they divide up the space on your paper.

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