Observational Drawing

I am now on the official da da da Art Curriculum Development Committee for our school district.  This means I get to make sub plans, take an hour car ride to the district office, freeze my butt off inside small office with no windows, and talk about how we can make our art program better.  I like it!

I really do like these meetings.  It’s the only time I get to chat with other art teachers, learn from their experiences, and eat some yummy food items I didn’t have to cook myself.  So far, it’s been a win.

One of the things I really enjoy is that I’m able to learn from these fine artsy folks.  They know I am a former classroom teacher.  They know I did not receive my degree in Fine Arts.  They still welcome me into the fold and I get educated on what I’ve been missing all this time.  In college, they got to take printmaking, ceramics, stained glass, etc.  Now, I get to learn fancy terms and ya know what, I’m not that far behind.

These teachers admit they tend to go in certain directions in their teaching of art.  If they like to draw, they tend to have their students draw.  If they hate printmaking, their students don’t do much in this area.  Hence, why we are here… to ensure our students get a well-rounded art education in the little time we see them.

I am lucky and I think my students benefit from my lack of knowledge.  I don’t really have an area of expertise in art.  I love it all.  I am learning about the materials and my kids are right there with me.  I love oil pastels, chalk, collage, printmaking, weaving.  This “strength” is also a problem.  My personal art studio is filled with things I may end up using or not, just because I’m so good at starting something, but not so good on completing it. I’m figuring it out.

Anyhoo, as part of my learning adventure, I’m taking a drawing class right now.  I’m so excited about it, I just have to share things with my students.  Does it really matter that they are only eight?  No.  Kids have a lot of knowledge in their brains already and they are really surprising in how they think and can do things.  They are sponges and they love to have fun so why shouldn’t they learn what their teacher is doing?

Observational drawing here we come.

I took out a bunch of items in my room and told the kids we were going to focus on learning how to draw them realistically.  I tried to make the objects as simple as I could. Plants are way too hard for this. Think geometric shapes, things with clean lines.  Then I had students close one eye, put their finger up and trace my whiteboard, then the desk, then the chair, etc.  I told them we were going to do this same thing on paper.

Students put papers down in front of them and did blind contour drawings.  I could tell immediately who was going to succeed at this and who was not.  If it looked anything like the object, I knew they were cheating and looking at the object.  No, kids, it should look like a bunch of scribbles really.  Figure out the shapes of the objects, do not look at the paper.

This is such a great exercise.  Once you let go of looking at the paper, and only see the object, you start to really see the object.  Break an object down into smaller parts and It’s a series of shapes, put together.  Once you put these things together, you can draw them better.  Of course, you need to add details, shading, etc.  But this will come.  It will come.

Once students got the hang of not looking at their object, their drawing started to improve.  I think we did this roughly three to four times in total.

Then I told them we were going to draw it for real.  This time, they would spend the majority of the time looking at their paper.  They had already become friends with their object, they know their object, they know where to start. Now, they just need to make the mental shift and start by looking more at their paper. Most of the kids jumped in immediately.  Again, we did it a couple of times, and each time, they improved.  Keep in mind, these are SECOND graders.

First and second go of one of my bags of coffee I just ordered.  No Starbucks here. I like this example because she really got into making the folds an creases in the bag.

This is of a group of legos put together to make a cylinder. Lots more details and accuracy in the second try.

A mirror.  Great job on using the space and making the mirror large enough it goes off the page.

This person just kept drawing coffee cups.  They all blend together on two pages but you can definitely see a difference from the beginning ones to the more advanced.

Overall, I was very pleased with how my students did on this activity. We will keep on working on more observational drawings in the future, simply so students can learn how to see their world another way.






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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