Some Perspective on Realistic Drawing

Sometimes, well, most times, kids really surprise me.  

What they say, what they do, or what they don’t say and cannot do.  After teaching Kinder for four years, I finally understand that kids don’t write their names on their papers at that age; and, they won’t until midway through the year.

I work at a K – Grade 9 school.  I now am in another building so I don’t see middle schoolers very much.  But, when I take students to the bus, students see the middle school kids’ artwork hung in the main hall and scream, “I want to do that!”  I usually tell students, “This is a sixth grade project, you will learn how to do this in middle school.”

This year, I threw caution into the wind and taught something I would never expect a third grade student to understand: perspective drawing.  I thought, if they want to learn it, and my curriculum is pretty open, why not? I was expecting it to be challenging, which it was, but it also showed me that I should stop putting age parameters on these kids and teach them anyway.  Some of them are ready for these concepts, they want a challenge, and isn’t that was differentiated instruction is all about?

If you have read my lesson on Keith Haring for second grade, a lot of this information is there.  I did the same lesson with my third grade classes.  Please visit that blog entry for any clarification on this.  I’m going to gloss over this part here. First, we cut out ovals and placed them on the table to make the overall shape of the human body.

But then, we took this a step further.  I gave students handouts of clothes and hairstyles for realistic drawing.  I tried to find realistic eyes for children but found them to be too complex.  One of my students suggested anime eyes, so we focused on that instead.  They are cartoony but they give great details on how to make eyes an expressive part of the face.

We also reviewed how to draw the face using fractions, and how to place the hair to make our people more realistic (not on top of the head, not strings).

Now for the fun part.  I did one lesson on one-point perspective inside of a room, and one lesson on one-point outside using a street scene.  To be honest, I didn’t do a very good job with outside.  We looked at bridges, roads, etc., it just didn’t seem to work as well as indoors.  I think the students also felt they could do more with inside. They wanted to make their dream bedroom.

Once we had practiced drawing spaces and people a few times, I gave the assignment. Students would produce a realistic drawing of a person doing something active inside or outside.  They could challenge themselves with adding perspective or they could do a drawing with a foreground, middle ground, and background.  We practiced making a block drawing to figure out proper placement of the person, and then we dug in.



I’m pretty impressed with this student’s effort.  She wanted to do a drawing of the school hallway and have a bunch of backpacks hanging on hooks.  She did a really good job with the placement of the hooks, backpacks, and how she drew the person.


This is also a god effort.  We worked on drawing the bookcase so it came out of the wall, sitting on the floor.



Great details.



Did I mention these are third graders?









As you can see, there is a lot of variety.  This assignment really allowed me to get a glimpse of what students enjoy in their free-time, and how they like to draw.


I want to make a t-shirt out of this one.  This boy practiced drawing a city block using perspective.  He wanted to draw a person sitting on a street corner begging for money. We never discussed why.  We spent a lot of time on details, like the hat and beard, and ran out of time before the art show.  He couldn’t figure out how to draw clothes when you are sitting (uh, neither could I).  We decided to put a sign in front of the man to solve this problem.  Then we talked about what you would put on a sign like this.  We discussed options.  He kept saying, “But I don’t know what it would be like to be poor and living on the street.”  A good moment to discuss empathy.  We came up with “A little bit of change helps,” and then he wrote this instead.

I love it!  And it is so true!






Author: Sonia Chapman

I am an art teacher, living in the Middle East, following my passion for art, teaching little children about the finer things in life, and loving every bit of it.

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