Activity 3


Photo Credit: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Ages 14+

As Jock Macdonald’s career progressed he began to move away from landscapes rooted in reality and towards his interest in abstraction to express what he believed to be a "higher reality". Abstraction exists with a basis in reality and in its most extreme form is non-objective (or has no basis in reality).

Lesson Objective

Create an abstract image from a series of realistically drawn objects to help students understand that abstraction can occur in varying degrees.


  • Three 8”x10” sketching paper / per student
  • One  22”x30” watercolour paper /per student
  • Pencils
  • Pastels (chalk or oil)
  • Tempura or acrylic paint
  • India ink (optional)
  • Textured gel medium or sand
  • Watercolour paper
  • Textured papers (handmade paper, newspaper)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrush


Look at artworks
Open Your Eyes
Estimated Time

15 – 30 minutes

Step 1

Share some examples of Macdonald’s work that demonstrate abstraction.

Step 2

Briefly discuss with the class how abstraction is achieved in these works.

  • Simplification
  • Stylization
  • Fragmentation
  • Distortion
Initial Abstract Drawing
Draw or paint
Estimated Time

10 Minutes

Step 3

Ask students to make three quick line drawings of an object of their choice from three different angles. Each drawing should be on a separate sheet of sketching paper.

Distorting Images
Draw or paint
Estimated Time

30 – 45 Minutes

Step 4

Have students place their three line drawings on one larger sheet of paper. They can experiment with rotating their paper and arranging the pieces in such a way that the original object is not readily recognizable. They may choose to cut the original images to make their composition.

Step 5

Encourage students to think about the various ways abstraction is achieved.

  • Can the object be simplified?
  • Can it be stylized? How?
  • Can it be fragmented or distorted?
  • Can sections be blocked out or emphasized?