You could start any lesson with the Horse Awareness Test -
Introductory lesson by Maggie White (from an old Getty post)
From Maggie: I've done this with my high school and art education
students. It drives home the concept of their CONCEPTION of an object
(what they think something looks like) and their PERCEPTION (what they
Here is the handout that she wrote up for this exercise.
THE H.A.T. (Horse Awareness Test)
This is a great first-day-of-school icebreaker (usually takes two
periods). It's fun, teaches them about contours and proportions, and
helps demonstrate the importance of observation when learning to draw.
This is an adaptation of a "test" developed by one of my graduate
professors, Warren Anderson. His was called the S.A.T. (Saguaro
Awareness Test). Since we have no saguaros but plenty of horses around
here, I adapted it to something the students are very familiar with.
You'll have to do the same (their sneakers? a local landmark? a school
bus?). Prepare slides showing various aspects of the object, or a good
transparency from a clear photograph. Work from a photograph, not
another artist's rendition.
Give each student a piece of paper and ask them to draw, to the best
of their ability, the subject you've chosen. The entire object should
be shown (i.e., the horse can't be standing in tall grass or deep
and should fill as much of the paper as possible. Give them 20-30
minutes for this. When time's up, they should put down their pencils
while you show them the slides and point out specific characteristics
of the object. I introduce the terms conception and perception:
oftentimes, our concept of what an object looks like does not
correspond to what it actually looks like. Drawing is largely a matter
of learning how to really observe what is there. If the actual object
is not available, they should work from photographs. Other artists'
work may be stylized or inaccurate.
I show them how to use their pencils to measure (like "real artists"),
estimate proportions, and gauge curves and angles compared to the
straight pencils. They measure the proportions of their own
drawings--no erasing and correcting!--as well. The visual analysis
takes another 20-30 minutes. They then turn their papers over and
re-draw the object; this time, the transparency remains projected so
they can observe the horse and measure the proportions and contours
(you could also have color photographs to put out at the tables -
horse in a variety of poses). This requires quite a bit more time than
the first drawing. The difference between the two drawings is usually
pretty dramatic. I always save the drawings to hand back at the end of
the year, which gives them a good laugh at what amateurish artists
they used to be.
The lesson plan page has Stick Horses pictured courtesy of Sue Stevens.
If anyone does any of the other lesson ideas, please send images -
then I will develop those lessons more.
Hope someone out there can use this... Sue says the stick piles are
already appearing in her neighborhood. Start collecting now.
On side note: The ceramic artist with the stylized clay slab horses
did not want her site linked... If you need samples of her work to
inspire, let me know. I will give you her site off list. I won't let
artists take away your Fair Use to be inspired.... She was offended
that I listed her sculptures as inspiration for elementary.