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Re: observational drawing-j.h/middle school


From: Bunki Kramer (bkramer_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Jul 21 2003 - 14:50:16 PDT

from: Bunki Kramer (
Los Cerros Middle School
968 Blemer Road
Danville, CA 94526

Asked Judy about this. She thought the list could provide more input.
thanks in advance.
YOu know I had a hard time with observational drawing this year. Because I
gave it as sketchbook homework and only explained it, maybe they never got
it.. I did some Betty edwards with the the upside picasso and the vase
drawing so they understood drawing was about seeing line direction and such.
They tended to draw flat overhead view of objects. I then told them they had
to draw 3-quarter views, which many just said was too hard and didn't do.
What's your approach? Mike

My approach would be "step by tiny step". With your upside drawing and vase
drawing done, you might try a simple drawing of a tea cup with saucer
(everyone gets the same ditto plus a clean sheet). Divide the drawing into 4
quadrants like a big grid. Discuss how a "point" on that saucer "relates"
with the center point and then with any one side of the picture OR a point
in a relationship with a quandrant line. It's all about "relationships" of
"points" on the object. This is a perfect directed-drawing do
a tiny step on overhead, they do with you.

Once you've got that under your belt you could try a real cup/saucer
still-life with only one cup/saucer. When finished with that cup/saucer, add
another shape to your physical still life like a teapot. Finished? Add
another object. Repeat adding diff. heights, thicknesses of objects,
overlapping until you have a finished, full still life. Next you could
discuss shading.

You want 3-quarter view? Try turning the cup/saucer at a 3-quarter view and
do the same exercise. You can't "talk" someone how to draw, you have to
"show" them. Demo on the overhead.

If you want them to draw correctly, you'll have to show most of your
students EVERYTHING in small steps. At this middle school age this is what
they really want to know how to do...draw correctly. The biggest hurdle I
find is not the actually's getting them into the right mind
frame beforehand to accept that it's a teachable skill. Saying "I can't" is
a WHOLE lot easier than saying "I'll try".

Validating their FEAR is an important first step to teaching drawing..IMHO.
I do this by showing really good drawings of previous students. In each
artwork there always seems to be a good "story" of the artist and the
similar fear experience they went through to achieve their success and I
like to share these with my drawing students. For example, I had a student
who spent 5 days declaring she "couldn't draw". It took her that long before
she made a try. Her finished product was outstanding.

After viewing the artwork, I'm well aware that each student standing in
front of me has the same collective fears. I ask them to acknowledge this
feeling and remember it so they can write about it later. We then go into a
"contract" of sorts..."If you will make a whole-hearted attempt to follow me
through each exercise step by step, I will show you how to draw". We take a
vote of who is willing to do that. It's a majority rules show of thumbs up.
I get 2-3 thumbs down but that's okay. I make a mental note of who I'll need
to encourage a bit more. Now we're made the commitment and are off and

At different time during the drawing unit I'll ask them to make a mental
note of how they are feeling at the time. Later, at the end of the unit,
kids do a "reflection" writing about their feelings during the experience.
I'm always discovering new insights into their feelings about this basic
stage. The stages of writing are...

    1. viewing the previous students' did I feel?
    2. putting that first mark on the paper...where to did I
    3. half way there...wondering if I'm doing it right?...actually starting
to look like
            something? did I feel?
    4. finished satisfaction...could I have done more? do I feel?

I also collect drawings at diff. times during the unit and we go through
them quickly so everyone sees what everyone else's looks like. It's a great
validation that each student is on the right track. In the beginning it's a
good indicator if anyone needs to revisit the beginning it's
too small, or it's too dark, etc. They can quickly make changes with the
advice offered by their peers. I'll prompt only when the conversation