I. Art-Making Studio

This Art!Facts activity proposes to teach students the process and techniques through which art can be created as well as allow them to experiment with and produce their own work of art.

You are about to recreate one of the most famous paintings in Canadian art history: Mt. Lefroy. Painted by one of Canada’s most recognized painters, this work of art has become a national icon.


For your studio activity, you will need to prepare the following materials:

  • Sketchbook/sketch paper (suggested size 9”x12”);
  • Pencil;
  • Eraser;
  • Ruler;
  • One downloaded reproduction of Mt. Lefroy from Art!Facts;
  • 90lb.watercolour paper (suggested size 10” x 11”);
  • Blendable watercolour crayons or watercolours;
  • Water containers;
  • Watercolour paint brushes;
  • Masking tape; and
  • Paper towels.


Follow these steps to produce your work:

1. Begin with a preparatory drawing of Mt. Lefroy:

Art!Facts has a digital reproduction of Harris’ original drawing entitled Preparatory Drawing for Mt. Lefroy. Print a copy and look at it closely. Notice that Harris used a grid to help him with proportion and scale.

Using a ruler prepare a similar grid in your sketchbook/sketch paper, and then by studying the original drawing recreate your drawing of the famous mountain on the grided paper. Do not trace the image.

As you draw emphasize the contrast between light and dark. Subtle shifts in value will lend a three-dimensional quality to your work. Dramatic contrast in value will help define and sharpen your image.

2. Compare and contrast the selection of oil paintings of Mount Lefroy in Art!Facts. Notice that Harris painted his subject matter differently in these paintings. Now it is your turn to exercise your creative flexibility by producing a second preparatory drawing for Mt. Lefroy. Use the principles of design and composition that you have studied in class to rework the image and develop an original version.

3. When your second drawing is complete, you are ready to begin painting. Tape a piece of 90 lb. watercolour paper to your desk or easel. Use your preparatory drawings to help guide your third and final work, the watercolour painting. Keep your drawings handy to rework and record new ideas for composition. You can also work out these ideas using a thumbnail sketch before including the changes in your painting.

Studio Hints

What is a Thumbnail Sketch?

A thumbnail sketch is used to help an artist sort out the composition and arrangement of the subject matter in a finished drawing or painting. It is small, often 2” square, and executed in black and white.

  • Start by making a rough outline of your subject matter;
  • Fill in any details that will contribute to your composition;
  • Next add values – the “lights” and “darks” to the sketch.

Techniques of Pencil Sketching

The pencil can be used in a variety of ways:

  • On its side, for thicker and darker lines or shading, or
  • On its tip for details.

Using Watercolour Crayons

  • Colour with watercolour crayons and then add water to blend colours. When the painting is dry, you can add detail and darken colours with crayons again.
  • Dip the crayon in water and draw with it.
  • Wet the brush and pass it over the crayon to pick up the paint, then paint with the loaded brush.
  • Combine different coloured crayons in one area for variety.
  • Create a variety of lines and textures (for leaves, needles, rock).

Creating Depth with Watercolour Crayons

For areas closest to you - foreground:

  • Press hard with crayons to create dark colours.
  • Add more detail.
  • Use bright colours and a variety of colour combinations.

For areas further back - background:

  • Do not press hard with crayons; instead press lightly.
  • Simplify shapes and omit details.
  • Use less bright colours.

II. Research

To complement your studio activity read about Lawren Harris, his series of sketches and paintings of Mount Lefroy, and the Group of Seven. Once you have completed your research write an essay (the length will be determined by the educator) about one of the following questions:

  • What impact did Lawren Harris’ spiritual interests have on his art? What direction did his art take as a result of his theosophical beliefs?
  • In what way was Lawren Harris instrumental in the creation of the Group of Seven? What was his contribution to the Group (both artistic and financial)?
  • What is Lawren Harris’ contribution to Canadian art?
  • How would you describe Lawren Harris’ art? You can focus solely on his portrayal of Mount Lefroy, on the art that he created during the existence of the Group from 1921 to1932, or you can look at the entire development of his artistic career from the beginning until his death. (You can choose to concentrate on a particular theme that the artist explored, on a certain artistic period, or you can expand your research and trace the evolution of his art.)

To learn more about Lawren Harris’ artistic style, the Group of Seven, and the impact of the Group on the development of Canadian art perform a keyword search of the following terms:

  • Theosophy
  • Impressionism and the Group of Seven
  • Canadian abstract art and Lawren Harris
  • Les Automatistes (mid twentieth century Canadian art movement, post-Group of Seven)
  • Painters Eleven (mid twentieth century Canadian art movement, post-Group of Seven)

Scott McDonald and Sharona Adamowicz-Clements
Sharona Adamowicz-Clements, Scott McDonald

© 2006, McMichael Canadian Art Collection. All Rights Reserved.

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