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Re: perspective and appropriate age


Date: Sun Feb 09 2003 - 06:38:43 PST

I start teaching visual perspective (drawing on the right side of the
brain) in 3rd grade. My students go to the aquarium at the zoo after a
science study of sealife. While we are there, we sketch species of
aquatic life. Since the fish are obviously moving around it is more
challenging, but I build the lesson around capturing basic shapes
lightly and then generalizing details with further study as the fish
move about. They really do a great job and have a lot of fun. Back in
the classroom, I have a big folder on each table of photos of aquatic
plants and sealife, fish, etc. I start the lesson by having them choose
one or two sea animals to make a school of. They carefully draw their
fish, crab, seahorse, or whatever, on a piece of white xerox paper and
go over the shape with a black pen. Then they lay the xerox paper
underneath the 18x24 sheet of white drawing paper. They trace the fish
that they drew onto the larger paper, then they move the xerox that is
still underneath to another spot, but it must be slightly connected to
the first fish on the big paper, thus creating overlapping and depth.
I have them draw smaller versions of the same type of fish and they
place them underneath the big paper and trace those fish as distant in
the school, overlapping the bigger fish over them on their developing
drawing. While they are doing this automatic overlapping, they are to
add a few plants with staggered sizes that the fish swim sometimes in
front of (draw the fish first) and sometimes behind the plant (draw the
plant first.) A big part of this stage is to create a feeling of
movement and a path for their eye to follow throughout their picture by
this group of fish that will create unity by repeptition. We talk about
diagonal placement rather than horizontal placement to make their fish
appear to be swimming rather than stuck on the page. And their plants
have to be repeated in various sizes to create unity as well. ANd plants
sway in the currents. Some plants are very tall, like kelp, and some
are shorter. And there are of course, varying stages of life...full
grown and new plants, not just big in the foreground and small in the
background. We also work on the ocean floor. They are to draw groups
of shells, crabs, lobsters, octopus, whatever, and most important on the
ocean floor portion is that they create a feeling of depth by not
dropping the ground lines into their pictures until they have drawn the
shells, plants, crustaceons, rocks, etc. fist. They draw the ground
lines like lazy rolling hills with varying heights. Then they draw
some more plants, creatures, treasure chests, sunken ships, mermaids,
etc. a little further back and smaller, then drop in another ground line
that is to pass through some of the shapes that they just drew, thus
creating more depth. Some of them have even added some taller lines
that come up from the ground and encircle the page to make it look like
their scene is partly or wholly inside a cave, looking out to open
ocean. In these cave areas, some have put negative space holes to see
the fish passing through them or behind them. And of course, a
wonderful trick is to have a fish overlapping the edge of the cave and
open water. Their compositions are incredible, and this lesson is chock
full of elements and principles and concepts, and EVERYBODY gets
overlapping after the tracing of the school of fish part! Following
the big drawing of the composition, they take their drawings to the
cafeteria windows, where they trace over their draft composition onto
good watercolor paper. When we paint, we talk more about unity, about
repetition of colors, about variation of colors, about brush sizes to
use, washes, wet in wet, and dry brush. And we use salt in our water
and rocks to create that wonderful texture that only salt can create.
It's a lengthy project that is one of the best. They have a great time.
The thing that really makes this work is having large ocean files on
each table so that they kids can see MANY examples of overlapping as
they are creating, and so that they can observe the details and shapes
of the creatures that they select to add to their pictures. I have used
a lot of the copyright free Dover sealife books for this project, as
well as many color pictures from wildlife magazines, Nat'l. geographic,
calendars, etc. The thing that is the most amazing to me is the depth
that they draw as a result of this project. THere is much reteaching
during this project, as you can imagine....diagonal placement, size
variation, repetition and variation, ground lines LAST, grouping for
unity, creating a path of movement for your eye to follow. But it's a
long project, so kids have a chance to work it all out. And since the
final painting is traced onto clean watercolor paper, they can leave out
the smudges and eraser marks and anything they decide is "too much".
Oh, and we also discuss the need for a quiet space in their painting
where their eye can rest. I will post these within the next few weeks.
Happy Sunday, everyone.

LInda Woods
St. John's School, click on fine arts, click on lower school gallery.