My family and I took a road trip a few years back, following part of the route that Lewis and Clark took to the Pacific Ocean. We listened to the book Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis and Clark, visited the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and relaxed in the beauty of the Oregon coast. I didn’t know much about their journey before this, but was quickly amazed by what they and their companions encountered and experienced.
One thing that stuck with me was the breadth of skill and knowledge that Lewis and Clark needed to lead such a unique mission. They had to know about medicine, botany, astronomy, zoology, geography… and drawing! In journals they described and sketched many animals they saw during the trip. Some animals written about were squirrels (their dog Seaman caught them, and they fried them up for food), pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs (other names they came up with were “ground rat” and “burrowing squirrel”), and the jackrabbit to name a few.
The lessons below focus on drawing North American animals that the explorers would have come across in their travels. Just like Lewis and Clark, our students will practice honing their observation and drawing skills among the many other subject matter they know.
When I think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, I picture him lying on his back atop huge scaffolds, working in this position for years and years. I’m not sure if I was formerly taught this, but come to find out, it’s a widespread misconception! He did work atop tall scaffolds, but stood upright with his head craned back to paint. Not surprisingly, that dude was fed up with the Sistine Chapel ceiling by the time he was done.
The Michelangelo project in Discovering Great Artists, p. 25, still goes off the assumption that Michelangelo laid on his back to paint the ceiling. The directions in my lesson plan mimic this, as it is much easier to tape paper under a table than to erect scaffolding to reach the ceiling, but if you find a solution that allows students to stand and paint above their heads, please share!
Fra Angelico is well-known for his altarpieces and frescoes, his most notable being The Annunciation painted in the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy. He painted several paintings on this same theme throughout his life, but this is by far his most well-known work. To help students get a firm grasp on his subject matter, we will be replicating another of his images of the Annunciation, but one that is much simpler. The Annunciatory Angel also depicts Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will be the mother of the Christ and shows the golden halo typical of the time. Continue Reading →
Ghiberti’s masterpiece, dubbed the “Gates of Paradise”, are beautiful relief panels adorning the doors of the Baptistry of San Giovanni in Florence. It took over twenty years for Ghiberti to complete this project! He first carved wax molds, then cast them in bronze, and then polished, sanded, and incised details. Finally, he covered them with a layer of gold. Twenty years on the same project takes a lot of dedication!
Our twenty-first century replica is to use wax wikki stix, dull pencils, and aluminum foil to create the same thing in half an hour. Well, maybe not the same thing, but you get the idea. Continue Reading →
To complete the first six weeks of Cycle 1 we’ll be drawing Chinese kites. The lesson plan touches on mirror-image drawing, one-point perspective, and abstract design. That’s a lot, but I hope the kids feel confident in their knowledge and enjoy drawing their final piece.
Many historians believe that China is the birthplace of the kite, and the first recorded use of a kite was in China in 196 BC. Kites have had many purposes: they were used to carry messages, to celebrate special occasions, and even as a tool in war! Marco Polo is credited with bringing the first news of kites back to Europe after his travels through Asia in the thirteenth century. There is such an interesting and unique history to explore! Continue Reading →
The Foundations Guide suggests using Greek vases to practice mirror-image drawing, and whad’ya know! That works perfectly for Cycle 1 and ancient civilizations.
We know that the Greeks used symmetry in architecture, and we can see this same love of order and balance in their art. Most of their pottery was symmetrical in shape and was decorated with geometric designs, floral motifs, and scenes from life or mythology. If possible, bring in several books on Greek art or civilization for students to look through as they complete their drawings.
This lesson focuses on mirror-image drawing using the vase outline, but also incorporates OiLS through adding geometric designs. Each lesson plan includes a few examples of traditional Greek patterns, but the options are endless! Continue Reading →
The new Foundations Guide came out this year, but you’ll notice that drawing for weeks 1-6 are the same as in the past. Since Cycle 1 looks at the history of ancient kingdoms, I will be combining the drawing concepts alongside art from ancient civilizations.
Week 1 starts out with the basic elements of drawing using the OiLS concept. We will use Egyptian symbols to practice studying what we see and copying that on our own paper. Remember, these are drawing lessons: the point is to learn to draw well, not necessarily express creativity. Once drawing skills are developed, students can more easily express their own thoughts because they have the skills to do so! It is okay to ask students to slow down, follow directions exactly, and even re-work their drawing to improve it. This will be so effective in the long run, and the students will see that the results are worth it.
Below you will find lesson plans with videos for ages 4-6, 7-9, and 10-11. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Happy drawing!
Starting out the “Great Artists” this year we have Grandma Moses. Her work is considered folk art, meaning her art pieces reflect her community, culture, and the everyday things around her. She was not a formally trained artist, and amazingly did not even begin painting until her late seventies. In her paintings we see the quirky nature of her self-taught art: the flattened buildings, the funky use of perspective, and the robustly busy scenes. They are charming and endearing, and your students will love to create their own scene as well.
Though the lesson is primarily about Grandma Moses and folk art, this plan will also focus on learning the terms “foreground”, “middleground”, and “background”. It’s always nice to throw in some extra art terms and use these projects to practice specific techniques. Continue Reading →
For the final drawing I usually don’t try and include all the concepts from the previous five weeks, but this year I gave it a go. In order to pound those pegs in a little deeper, this project will touch on mirror-image drawing, perspective, shading, and, just by its nature of being a drawing, OiLs. (It also includes an American flag as in week four’s abstract art. Kind of a stretch, I know.)
Hopefully the kids are excited when they discover how much about drawing they already know. If your students get the concepts, you can give them verbal directions only or write the steps on the board and let them work at their own pace. They’ll love the autonomy of figuring it out on their own! Continue Reading →
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.