Acrylic Painting: Charley Harper Animals - Art with Geometry for High School Students

Challenge students to think creatively! In my beginning art class we re-created an animal of our choice using rulers, protractors and compasses. Students struggled at first with not hand-drawing, but quickly got the hang of it. We learned about artist and illustrator, Charley Harper and talked about his unique style of creating graphic and flat images that nonetheless spoke volumes about the personality of the animals he created in his work.

  • Medium – Acrylic
  • Project Length – 2-3 weeks
  • Grade – 7-12
  • Tie-Ins: Math/Geometry
  • Objective – Explore the artist Charley Harper and learn about acrylic paint, color schemes and geometry.
  • Materials – Acrylic paint, (I had students use only Phthalo Blue, Ultra Blue, Hansa Yellow, Cad Medium Yellow, Nap Crimson, Cad Red Medium, White and Black) Acrylic Brushes (Synthetic fibers), Water, Acrylic Paper or Canvas, Plates for palettes, cups with lids to save paint if desired.
  • Technique: I have students look up an animal of their choice online and have them print it in color and in grayscale. Students then create 3 thumbnail drawings of their animal, simplifying the shapes using protractors and rulers. Once they found one they like they painted the background of their paper with one color, re-drew their animal large onto the final paper using chalk pencils and then began painting shapes according to their color scheme.
  • Link to the Presentation Lesson Plan and Evaluation:

Here are some of my students final animals:

And this is a step-by-step example of the process:

Students found reference and printed it out in grayscale

Next, they created thumbnails free hand, keeping in mind that the shapes were going to be created using compasses, protractors and rulers.

They then painted the background of their canvas and drew the animal full size.

This is the finished owl created by one of my freshmen students.

 Charley Harper Animals Acrylic Painting

Enjoy incorporating geometry into your art class with this lesson using Charley Harper as inspiration.