Art 101: Ancient Greek Pottery

May 17, 2020 | Heidi Williamson
Art 101: Ancient Greek Pottery

I normally teach our Art 101 events in-person, but since we're unable to do that for the time being in this post I would like to share a little bit of information about ancient Greek pottery and how you can create your own Greek style flowerpot for your home.

Pottery served many functions in ancient Greek society. They were used for storage, funerary markers, competition prizes and more. The designs on the pottery often showed scenes from mythology, sports or scenes of daily life. The images on pottery have taught us much about the lives and beliefs of the ancient Greeks.


An example of Greek Red figure and Black figure pottery

When people think of Greek pottery, they typically think of the characteristic red and black pottery used in Athens. However, these pots came in two varieties. Black figure pottery and red figure pottery. In black figure pottery, the artist would paint the figures with a black glaze then incise the details after firing. Red figure pottery left the figures unglazed except for the details that would be painted on before firing. The results were beautiful and striking.


DIY Greek-Inspired Pottery

It’s easy to make your own pottery inspired by Greek art using a terracotta flowerpot and black paint. I’ll show you step-by-step how to make one. You will need the following supplies:

  1. Terracotta Flowerpot
  2. Black acrylic paint
  3. Paintbrush
  4. Paper or plastic plate to use as a paint palette
  5. Cup of water for rinsing your brush
  6. Paper towel to clean your brush



Add a bit of paint to your palette, wet your brush with a bit of water, wipe off the excess, and add some paint to your paint brush.

Painting the outline of a rabbit on a terracotta pot with black paint



Decide if you are going to paint a red figure or black figure style pot.  If you make a red figure pot, outline your design with paint and paint in the background around it. If you want to paint a black figure pot you can paint in your figure instead and either leave your details blank or use some red paint to paint in detail after the black paint dries. I chose to paint a red figure pot. I also chose to sketch out a design in pencil first to make it easier to paint. My pencil lines would be painted over or erased after the paint dried.

Filling in the area around outline of rabbit with black paint



Add some extra details. Greek artists often filled in the empty spaces of their pots with floral or abstract designs. If you want to use abstract designs for the entire pot you can absolutely do that. In this example, I painted some designs around the rim of my pot.

Adding embellishments and patterns to the edge of the pot



Wait for the paint to dry and enjoy your completed piece of art!

The finished product, a red rabbit figure outlined by black paint on a terracotta pot


If you are interested in learning more about Greek history and art, check out the following resources:

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