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Lesson Plans

observational drawing

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sharon Henneborn (heneborn)
Tue, 03 Nov 1998 22:24:17 -0600

I am very interested in this discussion about observational drawing.I
have found it very useful.

Around September someone raised the question that we continually post
questions and information about how to teach some craft or solve some
technical problem with this material or that. She suggested that we
were neglecting the subject of drawing. I didn't see any responses to

I assumed that because we were all trained in the arts we taught mucho
drawing and were settled in with our methods for teaching drawing. There
wasn't much need for Q&A on that subject whereas the other areas we need
to cover are so vast that none of us could be expected to know it all
and we need to share our experience. Why should each of us need to
invent the wheel .

So....after all we do have some interesting questions about teaching

When I was in grad school the art ed prof told us an interesting story.
He had built his geodesic dome home on top of a central cement column.
The column held a spiral staircase and an elevator. It looked like a
giant mushroom. His daughter had been drawing from an early age and she
always drew her house with a rectangle, a triangle, and 2 windows and a
door! Go figure. He had been making a study of these symbols for years
and said he was no more near a theory than when he first began....
We reviewid the literature and concluded that we know that they draw
these symbols but do we know why?

No matter! Interesting that this should come up now. In the fall when
pumpkins and gourds are plentiful I bring them in for drawing. I sit
with a big pumpkin in my lap and ask what it is. Then I draw a big
circle with a rectangle on top and add the stripes. What is this?
Pumpkin of course. After a few questions we conclude that the symbol
doesn't look much like the real thing but it is generally accepted to
communicate PUMPKIN to the viewer. (Sort of like a shorthand.)

Then we study the little Jack-Be-Little pumpkins (each one holds
one,looking and feeling) First viewpoint is the linguist and we think
of descriptive words and recall pumpkin stories and poems they have read
in class. Next is the scientist's viewpoint and we examine for growth
patterns, name the parts of the squash family, etc. Then the artist's
eye! We set up dark blue (Betty Edwards) triaramas and put the
pumpkins in to observe and draw. Practice studies from several
viewpoints until the page is covered. To lower the frustration level I
ask them to: 1) number each practice so we can follow the progress, 2)
lightly x an area that is a mistake and circle anything that is
outstanding. Saves on erasing and throwaways.

2nd lesson uses gourds which are easier because they don't have a
universal gourd symbol stored in their brain and the variety of shapes
and patterns is much more exciting.

3rd lesson is to draw one and add one behind the first until they have
an overlapping still life drawn one piece at a time. This takes a lot
of gourds and pumpkins since each kids needs at least 3 to make a
stillife. They could work in partners. (I supplement with my own winter
squash and eat them after the lesson.)

Something interesting I observed when I demonstrate the overlap is that
when I put a 2nd squash in front of a 1st squash I alway ask if they
can still see all of the first (covered) squash. Some adamately
believe they can and draw x-ray style and those that know they can't
think the former are crazy. Each succeeding year we repeat this part
of the activity and fewer and fewer think that they can still see the
covered squash. (PIAGET) There is no convincing them. They don't see
it 'till they see it! By third grade they see it. We will be
overlapping next week so watch someone prove me wrong!

Something else I have observed is that many draw the bumps and grooves
on the pumpkins to the inside of the "circle" instead of bumping toward
the outside. They don't seem to make this same reversal on the gourds.

In January when we are longing for the beach we observe and draw my
collection of sea shells. (Spiral is a spelling word at about that
time.) Of course then water color seascapes.

Spring we go out and pick dandelions from buds to puff balls . Jagged
is a first grade spelling word in the spring so we pick the leaves too.
Everyone has a sandwitch bag and fills it. No worry about depleating
the world's supply of dandelions!!! Linguist~~ Fr. Dent de lion Tooth
of a lion. Scientist~~ draw what we see and tear apart and draw the
parts. Artist ~~~ Beatrix Potter's botanical drawings . Sandwitch bag
is stapled on the finished "study" to take home.

I want to hear more about observational drawings. how do you help the
child who has perception & fine motor problems. When their observation
skills are ahead of their manual skills and they are disappointed in the
results of their struggle. I tell them that they are reaching an
important growth stage and that they are developing advanced skills in
observation. It will take mucho practice for the hand to catch up to the
eye. We look for areas in the drawing where they are getting it! Peer
praise helps . What have you all found that encourages them and keeps
them practicing?

Sorry for being so long winded..I'm too tired to condense or spell
check...sending rough!

  • Maybe reply: Egartteach: "Re: observational drawing"