2-point Perspective of Buildings in an Urban Landscape, inspired by Ethel Spears

Karen Schaschwary, Art Teacher, Chicago Heights, IL
  1. Students will create a pencil drawing of an urban landscape that includes at least three buildings, one street, and two contemporary objects drawn in 2-point perspective.
  2. Students will create a sketch of a building and street in 1-point perspective on 9”x12” white paper.
  3. Students will explain in writing how Ethel Spears became an artist, her inspiration for her paintings, and how her artworks show the time period in which they were made.
  4. Students will verbally compare and contrast the use of shape, space, and emphasis, along with the details that help the viewer to determine the time period of the art, in their 2-point perspective drawing and Spear’s Weehawkin Street in a written worksheet.
  5. Students will self-assess their 2-point drawing using a written rubric.
  6. Students will verbally defend why they believe female artists were important in the U.S. in the early 20th century, and why their work continues to be important. (Students may use Ethel Spears as an example.)
State Standards: 
25.A.4, 25.B.4, 26.B.4d, 27.B.4b
National Standards: 
(9-12) 1, 2, 5
Drawing paper, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, rulers
Questions and Answers: 
  1. Q: How did Ethel Spears (1903-74) become an artist? What was her inspiration for her paintings? How do her artworks represent the time period in which they were made?
    A: (Answers to be filled out on worksheet.) Ethel Spears was born in Chicago and her interest in the arts is thought to stem from her Grandfather who had a painted diary. She enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago to study textiles after high school. She exhibited her work at the school when she was twenty. She re-enrolled in the AIC after deciding she wanted to study painting instead. At the time the faculty was very conservative, but she was able to find a progressive teacher. After that she spent time in New York and Paris, continuing to take art classes and work. She returned to Chicago and received her MFA and begun teaching art at the AIC. The inspiration for her paintings has speculated to be the bustling city around her and the diary her Grandfather kept. Her artworks show the time in which she created them by the style of the clothing worn by the figures, the vehicles on the street, and the style of the furniture in the homes. She also created murals for the WPA/FPA, which were created during The Great Depression.
  2. Q: Why were female artists important during the early 20th century? Why is their work still important?
    A: (Answers may vary.) Women’s experiences in history, shown through artwork, help us to gain a well-rounded understanding of historical events. By viewing art made by Ethel Spears, for example, we learn the experiences and perspectives she had during The Great Depression. Spear’s paintings give the viewer a unique perspective of her observations around Chicago and New York. We are able to pick up on the styles, domestic and public happenings, and interactions that took place between people and places. We also know that her work was valuable to society because she was employed by the WPA/FAP to create murals. Spears was able to contribute to WPA/FAP by helping to add color and life, along with stimulating an interest in the arts, during hard times.
Begin by showing students Weehawkin Street. Ask students what looks familiar, and what looks different. Ask students what time period they believe the work to be created during. Teacher will introduce Ethel Spears, including how she became an artist, her inspiration, along with history of WPA/FAP. (The teacher may decide to have students read the PDF article listed under resources, which includes multiple images of her work.) Students will listen to instruction on 1-point perspective and create a sketch of a building and street. (This lesson will work best if students already had experience in 1-point perspective.) The next class students will verbally review information learned about Ethel Spears and the WPA/FAP. Students will identify Spears’s use of 2-point perspective in Weehawkin Street. Students will be asked to identify the use of shape, space, and emphasis in the work. Students will watch a demonstration on 2-point perspective. The teacher should assist students in brainstorming contemporary objects to include. Students will receive the self-assessment rubric and begin working on their 2-point drawings. The next class students will complete the written worksheet about Ethel Spears and WPA/FAP. Students will continue to work on their drawings. When students are complete with their artwork they will fill out the self-assessment rubric. Next students will verbally compare and contrast the use of shape, space, and emphasis, along with the details that help the viewer to determine the time period of the art, in their 2-point perspective drawing and Spear’s Weehawkin Street in a written worksheet. At the end of the lesson students will verbally defend the importance of women artists in the early 20th century.