Focus on American Indian Art
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Focus on American Indian Art

Art is found in the things we see every day. From fashion, jewelry, architecture and even nature, art is all around us all the time. American Indians were especially adept at making art out of everyday objects by using beadwork, weaving and paint to decorate their possessions. This lesson plan will explore common items we use each day and how we can make those items unique expressions of art using the elements of design.

Lesson plan developed and written by Windsor Elementary, AISD Teacher, Tim Bryant
Introduction written by Millie Vanover, PPHM Research Assistant.




Art Elements

Line – a mark that begins at one point and continues for a certain distance. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curved, broken, dotted, zigzag. Click on the red links for examples of horizontal, vertical, diagonal and curved lines.

Color – what we see when light is reflected off an object.

Primary Colors – Red, Blue, Yellow

Secondary Colors – what you get when you mix two of the primary colors together

Intermediate Colors – what you get when you mix a primary and secondary color
Click here to see an example of color.

Value – the lightness or darkness of a color

Tint – adding color to white

Shade – adding black to a color
Click here to see an example of value.

Shape – an object that has height or width

Geometric – square, circle, triangle, octagon

Organic – bird, leaf, flower, blob
Click on the red links to see examples of geometric shape and organic shape.

Texture – the way a surface looks or feels

Tactile – how something actually feels

Visual – texture that you see rather than feel
Click here and here for examples of texture.

Form – an object that has height, width, and depth – three-dimensional

Decorative Artworks – created to add interest and beauty to surroundings

Functional Artworks – created to have a function or purpose, can also be decorative
Click here for an example of form.

Space – the area around, between, and within objects

Foreground – the part of an artwork that seems nearest

Background – the part of an artwork that seems farthest away

Middle ground – the area in between

Positive Space – the area that a person sees first when looking at an artwork

Negative Space – the area around the Positive Space
Click here and here for examples of space.

Composition – both the positive and negative spaces of the whole artwork
Click for an example of symmetrical and asymmetrical composition.

The Principles of Design

This list is the design elements used by artists to create two and three-dimensional art. These elements are used to organize parts into a whole. A quote from Children and Their Art states, “In visual terms, design is the organization of materials and forms in such a way as to fulfill a specific purpose,” (pg 264). The elements of design are the building blocks of art.

Emphasis – importance that is given to one part of an artwork

Can be created with color, size, placement, or shape
Click the red text for an example of emphasis.

Pattern – a design made with repeated lines, shapes, or colors

Motif – the part of a pattern that repeats

Random Pattern – motif with no apparent order and irregular spaces between

Regular Pattern – identical motifs and equal amounts of space between them

Alternating Pattern – occurs when a motif is changed in some way, or a second motif is added
Click for an example of pattern.

Rhythm – the visual beat created by the regular repeated elements in an artwork
Click for an example of rhythm.

Variety – the effect created by the use of different elements in an artwork to add interest

Balance – the steady feeling created by the equal weight of elements on both sides

Symmetrical – when both sides of an artwork are about the same

Asymmetrical – each side is not the same, yet the artwork appears balanced and complete

Radial – where lines, shapes, and colors come from a center point
Click for an example of balance.

Proportion – a sense that objects are the correct size in comparison with each other

Unity – a sense that an artwork is complete and that its parts work together

Created with similar lines, shapes, and colors

Examples of Artwork Types

Painting – color applied to a flat surface

Drawing – the process of making art with lines

Sculpture – art that fills up space

Architecture – the art of designing and constructing buildings

Printmaking – the process of transferring an original image from one prepared surface to another

Ceramics – the art of making objects with clay

Photography – the act of capturing an image on film

Artists and titles of works:

Robert Farrington Elwell, "Untitled (Prairie Fire)" ca. 1940

W. Herbert Dunton, "General Custer and I Were Very Nearly the Same Age and the Best of Friends" ca. 1940

Clarence Kincaid Sr., "Palo Duro Canyon" n.d.

Archie Blackowl {Mis Ta Moo To Va, Flying Hawk} Cheyenne, "Untitled (Plains Indian Burial)" n.d.

Allan Houser {Haozous, The Sound of Pulling Roots} Chiricahua Apache, "Mighty Buffalo" ca. 1975

Northern Plains Saddle Bag, ca. 1885

Anasazi Pitcher, n.d.

Julian Martinez, San Ildefonso, "Untitled (Mounted Warrior)" n.d.

E. Irving Couse, "The Quiver Maker" ca. 1918

E. Marting Hennings, "Drying Chiles" ca. 1925

Western Apache, Olla ca. 1910

The .pdf files are viewed best by downloading or updating to Adobe Reader X.

TEKS: The portion of each skill addressed is included in parenthesis
SS 4.1B(the ways of life of Native American groups in Texas)
SS 4.22A (Use primary and secondary sources, such as … visual material, and artifacts to acquire information about the United States and Texas)
SS 4.23D (Create …visual materials)
Art 4.1 B(Choose appropriate vocabulary to discuss the use of art elements such as color, texture, form, line, space, and value and art principles such as emphasis, pattern, rhythm, balance, proportion, and unity.)
Art 4.2B (design original artworks)
Art 4.3B (compare and contrast selected artworks from a variety of cultural settings)
ELA 4.4A (The student listens and speaks both to gain and share knowledge of his/her own culture, the culture of others, and the common elements of cultures. The student is expected to connect his/her own experiences, information, insights, and ideas with those of others through speaking and listening.)


Hurwitz, Al, and Michael Day. Children and Their Art: Methods for the Elementary School. 5th ed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991. Print.

Evans, Joy, and Tanya Skelton. How to Teach Art to Children: Grades, 1-6. Monterey, CA: Evan-Moor, 2001. Print.

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