Since we are studying American artists later this year during the “Great Artists”, I wanted to incorporate some famous American abstract artists into this lesson as well. I’ve included examples of paintings by Calder, Rothko, and Johns.
Jasper Johns (born May 15, 1930) created a painting called “Flag”, which, simply, is of the American flag. This is a great example of how confusing abstract art can be. As one of his critics said “Is this a flag or a painting?”. Exactly.
Even though abstract art can be hard to understand, we can still have great conversations about the elements used and how they make us feel. Talking about the lines, shapes, and colors helps us appreciate the beauty and depth of the artwork. To begin this lesson, show images of abstract art (I have included a PowerPoint of images I thought helpful) and have a discussion about them. Include “Flag” by Jasper Johns as a segue to our final drawing.
We will be using elements from the American flag as we design our abstract work. And in addition to using the elements, we want to use the principles of design. This project will focus on repetition and balance in particular.
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When I practiced this lesson with my own kids, it made me laugh because they begged for me to to turn the image right-side up for them to draw it. Something about an upside-down drawing drives kids nuts. Its hard to shut off the part of the brain that wants to see an image and to just let the lines be lines. I tried to explain to my kids the whole point of the exercise. As we draw, we need to simplify everything to OiLS (remember week 1?) and not even think about the subject matter. Upside-down drawings train us to do just that. Unfortunately, my kids didn’t care about the reasoning, and we even had to deal with some tears before the drawing was finished. Art is hard, people.
I chose the Statue of Liberty because of the loose, imperfect drape of her robes. I tried to create a drawing that appears almost abstract, only becoming recognizable towards the top when adding the head and arm. Hopefully this encourages students to focus on the lines and not the subject matter. Even if they do recognize it as they draw, the point of the exercise remains the same- study what you see. Don’t draw the Statue of Liberty from inside your head, draw the upside-down one you see in front of you.
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My dad is a huge early American history enthusiast, so I am extra excited to study this year’s curriculum. The next five lessons include symbols and landmarks of the United States, and we’ll start off with the Liberty Bell. Originally named the State House bell, this iconic piece hung in the Pennsylvania State House, which is now called Independence Hall. Inscribed on the bell are the words “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Wonderfully, these words are from Leviticus 25:10, and have been a symbolic statement of freedom for our nation throughout our history.
We will be using the Liberty Bell to practice a mirror-image drawing. Below you will find lesson plans and video tutorials for ages 4-6, 7-9, and 10-11. These age groupings are general, so please use the lesson best suited for your students. Continue Reading →
This art project will probably be quite a bit different from what you are used to in CC. As tutors, we usually draw a picture on the board and have the students copy as we draw. The students are (hopefully) looking at the lines and drawing them on their own paper. This is essentially the same skill as drawing a still life, where we look at something, analyze the lines and shapes, and reproduce it. However, I think students may be missing the real-world translation. How do we draw something without copying someone else’s drawing? How do we take the OiLS concept from “Drawing With Children” and connect it to drawing an object (or person, or landscape)?
This lesson is a series of sketches, not a finished artwork. The project may feel unusual, but it imparts a seriously important drawing skill. Try practicing at home and notice if it changes the way you think as you draw.
In last week’s post I talked about using the phrase “Let’s study what we see”. As you teach lesson one, use the phrase all the time. This lesson is a great starting point as we drive home the idea over the next six weeks. Continue Reading →
Welcome back! I hope you are excited and encouraged to start the new school year!
As we go through the next six weeks, I will be using the phrase “let’s study what we see”. As tutors, we want this to become part of our art vocabulary, and, most importantly, we want to equip our student’s parents with the phrase so they can use it at home as they teach their children how to draw.
When we draw, we must look. I believe that looking is actually the primary skill in drawing, not the act of putting pencil to paper (and this is actually encouraging- if you can see, you can draw!). How do we hone the skill of drawing? By studying what we see before we even touch pencil to paper.
So let’s unpack our previous phrase a little bit- “Let’s study what we see”: “Let’s”- As parents we can help by looking with our children and asking questions as they draw. Think of yourself as a guide. There’s no need to draw for them, even when they ask for help. Simply ask questions that point them back to the object as they draw. “Study”- to carefully examine and analyze. Studying is not a quick look. It is an extended, careful examination of what’s in front of us. We teach our kids to carefully examine the material and concepts set before them, and this applies to art perfectly. “See”- Yep, you must actually look at the object. A lot. Students want to skip this step. Don’t let them.
In addition to teaching drawing skills, most lessons over the next six weeks will connect with U.S. landmarks. Next week’s lesson will be a simple still life, and from there we will jump into drawing things such as the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, and the White House. Stay tuned for Cycle 3 Lesson 1 coming soon!
This project is almost as fun as finger-painting! Kids get to add items to the paint, creating unique and interesting textures. Though our artist for the week, Berthe Morisot, didn’t paint with such unusual items, we will still incorporate her work into the project and connect her to the lesson.
In the lesson plan I have included simple drawings of some of her paintings. The students will use the textured paint to fill in the pictures. Because the paint is so thick, it is best to do this project in the beginning of the day so it has lots of time to dry. Continue Reading →
As a girl I loved looking at Degas’ work. I was enamored by the beautiful ballerinas in voluminous tutus practicing their movements . It seemed effortlessly feminine. Though most of his work focuses on the female form, he also did paintings of men and children in everyday life. The overarching theme in his work is the human figure, and he was able to expertly capture the movement of the body.
Because I want to teach my students about Degas’ mastery of the human figure, I am straying completely from the Discovering Great Artists lessons. Instead, this lesson will teach VERY basic figure drawing ideas. Don’t worry, it’s simple! Continue Reading →
This week we move into Impressionism. When we think of Impressionism we think of Claude Monet. And when we think of Claude Monet we think of water lilies, landscapes, and dabbled paint. This is exactly what we want our students to think of as well. Hopefully by the time this project is done, they will have a permanent impression of Monet’s work and will be able to recall the imagery and technique of his style.
Not only will they see his style, but they will know what it feels like to paint as he did… with one exception. Monet usually painted outdoors. Though the Discovering Great Artists lesson has students painting what they see outside, this is hard to do during winter. Here it is cold and snowy, with very little color outside. To compensate for this, my lesson has students copy parts of Monet’s work, then do a landscape from their own head using his dabbing technique. Continue Reading →
It’s time to let our imaginations run wild! Though Thomas Gainsborough’s landscapes might appear simply realistic to us, they have a dream-like, dramatic quality to them. It is said that he even created them at home using pebbles, twigs, and even broccoli to create mini dioramas. The images were very much from inside his own head.
For this project, the students will create their own imaginary scene. Just like Gainsborough’s, it will be realistic yet wondrous. Waterfalls? Rainbows? Babbling brooks with ferns and foliage? Erupting volcanoes? The students get to be as creative and unrestrained as they choose. Continue Reading →
I love this project. It combines drawing with science and math. It teaches students to carefully study what they see. It allows us to emphasize size and proportion in drawing. Kids will always love to doodle and draw imaginative ideas, and teaching traditional drawing techniques in no way inhibits this. In fact, teaching realistic drawing will give them the skills to better draw what’s in their head.
This botanical drawing is based off the work of Carl Linnaeus, famous artist, botanist, physician, and zoologist. He carefully studied plants and recorded his findings through illustrations. They are beautiful examples of science and art. Continue Reading →