Wayne Thiebaud Cakes

HOOK: Create a unique delicious cake drawing inspired by American artist Wayne Thiebaud's cake paintings.

School: Grant Street
Elementary Teaching Artist: Wanda Leclerc
Grade Level: 1, 2, 3


Lesson: Students will draw an especially delicious cake in an ellipse shape (a circle seen in perspective) on black paper with oil pastels. Students take care in using shading and blending to depict the cake in a realistic way. This lesson is inspired by Wayne Thiebaud's Pop Art food paintings of the 1960's.

The Student:

Target Learning: Becomes familiar with the art of Wayne Thiebaud.
Criteria: Identifies characteristics of Thiebaud's food paintings by describing color palette, choice of subject matter, and composition, and basic information about "Pop Art" of the 1960s.

Target Learning: Draws circles in perspective.
Criteria: Practices and draws ellipses to represent cakes on cake stands seen from an specific point of view where side and top is seen at once.

Target Learning: Uses color and value to depict a realistic looking cake.
Criteria: Blends and shades with oil pastels on black paper to suggest the three dimensional form of cake.

Target Learning: Uses elements of art to make their cake unique and very special.
Criteria: Identifies and uses the basic ingredients of color, shape/form, space, texture and value/shading to draw a cake with specific flavors and decorations.

Vocabulary (click here for the glossary)

Geometric shapes: circles = ellipses
Oil pastels
Organic shapes
Pop Art


Cake Window, by Wayne Thiebaud; Take 5 Art Prints, Crystal Productions Books: Wayne Thiebaud, A Painting Retrospective: Deliciouse, Wayne Thiebaud


Newsprint for practice paper
Oil pastels
Blending tools
Black construction paper


















Creative process and resources introduced (lesson steps)

Teaching artist introduce students to the work of Wayne Thiebaud, especially his "Cake Series". Discusses his images and why he might have chosen to paint them. Introduces art style of "Pop Art" from the 1960s and talks about how images and advertising of contemporary popular culture as well as mass production of images through photographic and printing technology influenced artists.

Teaching artist explains that a circle seen in perspective is called an ellipse. Students then practice drawing ellipses, and then cakes on cake stands, on newsprint. Teaching artist then asks: What would make a cake look really special? These are not ordinary cakes you get from Safeway or somewhere like that. They are unique (one of a kind), beautiful, and delicious.

Teaching artist shows examples of organic and geometric shapes, different textures, lines, perspectives and realistic colors for cakes and discusses what is observed with students. Then, teaching artists demonstrates and discusses how to shade a round object to show value and how to blend oil pastels to depict a more realistic cake that looks like a dimensional form in space instead of flat shapes.

Teaching artist comments:

'Some students could choose take a slice out giving us a glimpse of the flavor and number of layers inside. One request is that the cakes be drawn to be "delicious" but especially delicious to adults! These cakes are fancy—meant to cost $8.00-$10.00 in a nice restaurant.

Assessment (strategies, forms, guidelines, reflection questions)

Peer review/critique
Group critique using new vocabulary words
Teacher observation and anecdote: participation in class during lesson

Essential Learnings (Art and other EALR's referenced)

Arts 1.1.1 Concepts and Vocabulary: Geometric Shape, 2-Dimensional, 3-Dimensional, value
Arts 1.2 Skills and techniques: Drawing
Arts 1.3 Understands and applies art styles: Describes attributes of art by specific artists
Arts 2.1 Applies a creative process: Conceptualizes, develops ideas and techniques