Painting Sweets

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Students will learn about pop art as they create paintings of sweets inspired by artist Wayne Thiebaud.

By: Amy Shapley [Amy is a PreK-8 art teacher at Notre Dame de Sion School of Kansas City.] With photos from

What You Need:

  • poster board or stretched canvas in large sizes. larger than 18 x 24 inches
  • gesso if using stretched canvas
  • plenty of white acrylic paints
  • colored acrylic paints
  • acrylic gel paint thickener or textural additives
  • brushes of all sizes, palette knives, other manipulative tools
  • pencils

What You Do:

  1. Show examples of the work of Wayne Thiebaud. Focus on the works that depict sweets and use the thickened paint. discuss the size and visuals of Thiebaud work. Discuss the thickness of paint. Discuss the colors Thiebaud used. Discuss the balance that is so necessary in such large compositions.
  2. Make a list on the board of the focal points of the work:
    • large, balanced composition
    • sweets as subjects
    • pastel colors
    • thick frothy paint
  3. Choose a sweet subject and begin to sketch it in balance on the poster board or prepared canvas. Remember to enlarge logically, and that it is okay to have part of the objects “fall off the edge” of the ground.
  4. Once the design has been roughly sketched, begin to mix paint for the back ground. ALL colors must be mixed with white to create a pastel. When mixing with white, remember that you add small amounts of color to the white paint until you reach the value you desire. Do not add white to color or you will have to add bucket loads of white before you reach a pastel tint. Add thickener or textural additives to the paint as desired. The back ground can have less texture than the subject matter in order to give the foreground emphasis.
  5. Add frothy texture as you add the foreground of the painting. Think of frosting…
  6. As the painting dries, keep an eye on how the thickener affects the color and texture of the paint. Add new layers of paint and manipulate the paint with palette knives of brushes until you reach the desired effect.

Painting sweets.

Sweet stuff pop art paintings.

"Three Machines" (1963), by Wayne Thiebaud
“Three Machines” (1963), by Wayne Thiebaud. De Young Museum, San Francisco


Wayne Thiebaud on Wikipedia