I love teaching observational drawing to my middle schoolers. I start with 6th grade, but I give little instruction then. I set up a still life and stress first that I want them to use their entire paper, carefully and lightly sketch the objects before adding detail, then add detail. Then we watercolor them, so that it doesn't become a laborious drawing projct for them. In seventh grade, I kick it up a notch by arranging black, white, and gray objects and requiring lots of values. I think that starting slow and having fun with observational drawing helps loosen the kids up. I tell them that I know it's hard work, but I am there to help them. I find that when I teach this lesson I am moving around the room constantly helping kids "see". I guess I've done it enough myself to learn what to say to help kids understand. I have them start with very light dots to mark the top, bottom, and sides of objects, lightly sketch the entire thing (I give them ten minutes to fill the paper) then add
detail. We talk about proportion and value a lot, and I do the thing with the tracing paper if they "can't get something to look right". My kids almost always impress themselves, and I feel that our "warm-up" in 6th grade helps. They don't take the drawing as seriously, and consequently do a better job. Oh, we also don't talk while we draw to attempt to open our right brains. We listen to classical music- and no one complains! I continously remark how impressed I am with their work, and how much they've improved since 6th grade (and it's all true!)
I started with some betty edwards exercise then explained and demoed contour of a snearker which I then gave them as homework. In later assignments I had them draw tools and other everyday objects. the final one was always their hand. I never got into shading, because i didn't want to overwhelm them. I only have 10 weeks with them.
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