Lesson: Wayne Thiebaud Cakes and Pies

Grade Level: 4th Grade

Art Elements: Color, Shape, Texture, Value

Art Skills: Drawing, Blending Oil Pastels

Making Connections: Famous Artist, Pop Art


In this lesson, students learn about the artist Wayne Thiebaud.  I have them watch the CBS Sunday Morning clip about Wyane and his life. They absolutely LOVE it!  Students learn about value, drawing with 3D Shapes, and affirm their knowledge of tints and shades through this project.

First, I show them all of the different options. On whiteboards, they practice all of the options before they decide what they want to do on their final copy.  The beauty of this lesson is that each one turns out different and each one reflections the student’s own choices and preferences.  This makes for a very engaged classroom.

The material is oil pastel/colored pencils on black paper. The black background really makes these pop!

Looking for more fun with Thiebaud? Check out this Cake Maker website for students to decorate their own cakes!

Do you ever do a lesson on Wayne Thiebaud? More in January, as my clay project for 4th grade ties into the “Cakes and Pies” theme!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Thiebaud is awesome! The students’ results look terrific. I like how they use the dry erase boards to practice.
    I’m going to have to show the video next time I do a project based on his work.

    Here’s a lesson I do with my 2nd graders.

  • Gena Smith

    Thiebaud always gets the students excited! Where did you get these  dry erase boards?  I love the size since I am a traveling art teacher and they look lightweight.  Also, it would help to go green! Thanks for all the great tips.

  • guest

    Cardboard inside of plastic page protectors are DIY dry erase boards. I don’t like the smell of even the low-odor or “non toxic” dry erase markers. Crayola has dry erase crayons that wipe clean with a damp cloth. They don’t write as dark as the markers, but they are safe. I want to try Aus Pen refillable dry erase markers, which are “no voc” and can be left uncapped 24 hrs. without drying out.

  • claire strock

    I love this lesson!

    What size paper did you have them use for this?

  • Art Teacher

    I will probably be doing a Wayne Thiebaud unit, similar to ones I have seen here and on Pinterest. I like the video as part of the lesson, but the naked people in the painting in the background (at a an auction or exhibit), and the earlier painting of his wife in a bikini are not appropriate for children, especially my middle school boys classes.