Monday, January 24, 2011

Op Art: 3-D Spheres

This is a great lesson for when you have a Substitute teacher as you only need
pencils, rulers and markers.

There are many versions of this lesson floating around the internet~ this is how we did ours:

First, I showed Grade 7 students samples of Op Art- works mainly by Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely, who is widely regarded as the father of the Op Art movement.

Op Art is a style of visual art that makes use of optical illusions. Op art works are abstract, with many of the better known pieces made in only black and white. When the viewer looks at them, the impression is given of movement, hidden images, flashing and vibration, patterns, or alternatively, of swelling or warping.

With students, discuss the idea of creating a 3-dimensional illusion of form
and movement on a sheet of paper.

Victor Vasarely, Vega-Nor, 1969
Trace some circles (2-3 and different sizes) on a sheet of thin white paper. We used the larger size of regular copy paper (11 x 17") but using 8.5 x 11" would take much less time.
We use plastic lids which I hoard ;) to trace for the circles.

Divide the circle down the middle, then add curved lines on either side- this helps give the illusion of form. Do the same thing the opposite way until you have a checkerboard design.
Using a ruler, measure out a checkerboard design for the background. Don't make the squares too small or it will take FOREVER to colour.

So this one below is all ready for colouring. Choose two colour of markers; contrasting colours seem to work best, in my opinion. Now, use your darker colour of marker and  mark a small dot in every second square so you know where to use that colour.

TIP: students should tape together the two colours they are using and label them with their name so they don't get confused next class as to which colour they used. I noticed this was a bit of a problem with this project, especially if students used the class set of markers.

Colour, colour, colour. This is a good project for students to start at the beginning of the year, then keep it in their folder for 'I'm finished, what do I do now?" moments. It can be a bit repetitive to work on this for long periods of time, especially if you use larger paper.

For the last magical step, use a piece of vine charcoal or a charcoal pencil, and outline/shade around one half of the sphere, blending it out with your finger. This helps give the illusion of the sphere 'popping' out of the background.

Ta Da!

Display board courtesy of my teaching assistant (Grade 9 student volunteer).


  1. Thanks for sharing - I especially like the shading done around the sphere(s) as a finishing touch. Adds the WOW effect...

  2. i love your blog. thanks for sharing your lessons. i've done similar op art lessons. i like the shadow.

  3. Thanks Nancie and Jessica! Yes, there are loads of cool Op art lessons out on the web. They are very eye catching, hence such a crowd pleaser!

  4. I just found your blog and this lesson was exactly what I was looking for to do with my kids we are studying Op art now. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks, Handmade Design- I hope your kids enjoy it!

  6. Great project. Some students wanted to use colored pencil but we found that charcoal will not stick to the burnished surface that colored pencil creates. They had to add shadow with a black colored pencil, which wasn't as successful as marker and charcoal.

  7. Thank you very much for the detailed art project!

  8. Norene: thanks for the tip. Good to know pencil crayons don't work as well.

    Anonymous: You're welcome!