Painterly Tile Triptychs and Beyond

Lesson Plan, Grades 4-12, Art, Language Arts, Ceramics & Sculptures, Painting


Lesson Plan and Artwork by Dana DuMont

Contemporary ceramic artists including Josh Deweese, Cristina Córdova, and Naomi Clement are masters at layering color in expressive, painterly ways. Using Speedball® Underglazes and Glazes on Sax® Earthenware Clay with combinations of brushes, clay tools and sponges, student artists can look to these ceramicists for inspiration as they experiment with realistic and abstract color, matte and gloss surfaces, and the levels of transparency to opacity that can be achieved in color layers. The sets of tiles they complete can be adhered to mat board for display as triptychs, larger compositions, or individual pieces.


  • View and discuss the expressive glazing and compositions in the ceramic works of Josh Deweese, Cristina Córdova, and Naomi Clement
  • Experiment with Speedball® underglazes and glazes to create painterly brush and tool marks as integral parts of their artworks
  • Students will mount tiles for display
  • Students will discuss and constructively critique the sets of tiles created

Supplies Needed

Speedball® Earthenware Glaze, Clear, Gallon
Speedball® Deluxe Earthenware Glaze Set, Assorted Colors, Set of 12 Pints
Speedball® Deluxe Underglaze Set, Assorted Colors, Set of 12 Pints
Sax® Low Fire Moist Earthenware Clay, White, 50 lb
Sax® Genuine Primed Canvas Pad, 18 x 24 in, White, 10 Sheets/Pad
Sax® Optimum Golden Synthetic Taklon Paint Brushes, Assorted Sizes, Set of 72
Sax® Special Melton Mount Board, 22 x 28 in, Black/White, Pack of 20
Jack Richeson Economy Heavy Duty Student Modeling Tool Set, 6 in, Plastic, Set of 140
Jack Richeson Toggle Wire Clay Cutter, Hardwood Handle
Jack Richeson Plastic Flexible Super Safety Painting Knife, Set of 5
Falcon 1-Piece Hardwood Clay Roller, 18 x 101/2 in
Colour Shapers® Large Solvent Resistant Clay Modeling Tool Set, Assorted Size, Black, Set of 5
Colour Shapers® Small Solvent Resistant Clay Effect Tool Assortment, Size 0, Black, Set of 5
Royal® Oriental Goat Hair Large Area Chinese Hake Brush Set, Assorted Size, Set of 3
Royal® Golden Taklon Paint Brush, Assorted Sizes, Set of 3
Royal® Wool Sea Sponge Assortment, 21/2 in Dia X 11/4 in Thickness, 4 - 5 in, Set of 36
Elmer’s® Glue-All® Multi-Purpose Glue, Gallon
Command Poster Adhesive Strip - 4 Strips Per Pack, Medium, Pack of 100
Premier® Stackcut Wood Base Trimmer, 24 in Cut, 30 Sheet Capacity


Standard #1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Standard #2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Standard #3: Refine and complete artistic work.
Standard #5: Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.
Standard #7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Standard #8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
Standard #9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.



View works by Josh Deweese, Cristina Córdova, and Naomi Clement and discuss how and why artists layer color in expressive, painterly ways. Define triptych and discuss how artists can achieve complete and united works in their compositions with visual divides. Review realistic and abstract color, matte and gloss finishes, and color transparency/opacity.


Sketch multiple ideas for non-objective and representational tiles sets, and add expressive color with dry or wet media.


Cut Sax® low fire clay into approximately ¼” slabs using wire cutter, use rolling pin to even out slabs on canvas sheets, use clay tools to cut slabs into tiles, and smooth edges with moist sponge.


Arrange smoothed tiles on canvas, draw lines and marks into tiles using painting knives and clay modeling and effect tools.


On moist to green tiles, add dark Speedball® underglaze to deep lines and remove excess color with tools or damp sponge.


Use two to three layers of Speedball® underglazes while experimenting with a variety of brushes and painting knives. Underglazes can be mixed just like paints to create tints and shades of colors, and can be applied in thin, medium or thick amounts. Once applied, color can be lightly scraped off in places and new layers added. Write artist names into backs of all tiles with a clay tool or pencil. (Manufacturer recommends three coats of underglaze for consistent/opaque results if desired.)


Cover tiles lightly with plastic and let dry, bisque fire after clay and underglaze are dry, and then recommend three liberal coats for consistent, glossy finish of Speedball® low fire glazes depending on the level of gloss you wish to achieve, OR the bisque firing can be omitted and the green underglazed tiles can be glazed with one to three layers of Speedball® low fire glazes, then slowly dried and fired in a slow cone 06 glaze firing. Additional thin glaze layers can be added and tiles refired to add further color refinement.


Compose triptychs and other tile groupings, select and cut mat board for each composition, and attach tiles to board with glue or velcro adhesive strips.


Display work, critique final compositions, and discuss the challenges, skills and knowledge gained from the process.


Create an expressive piece of prose or poetry, or a written self-critique relating to one complete composition.