December 4, 2010

Learning to Look: Poinsettias

Drawing is one of the most important skills I can develop in my students. I think I'm so interested in drawing because my art teachers in elementary school never taught any drawing skills. It was either you COULD or COULDN'T draw. The kids who could draw the best were considered the "artists" in the class. I knew I was an artist at an early age, but knew my teachers wouldn't believe me because I was not the best drawer in the class. I tried through high school to develop my skills, but it wasn't until I went to RISD that I learned to look. I learned how to really see objects through observation and it opened up the world of drawing to me!

I can't resist the bold color and shape of poinsettias. Last week, made our first attempt at observational drawing. 
First Grader hard at work observing a poinsettia.

Students saw all shapes and sizes!

Saving the best for last! Can you see how hard this first grade artist worked on observing her poinsettia? 

Just as there are some kids who can read before they can walk. . . there are kids who can just draw. For the rest of us, it takes work. Like learning to read, we must learn to look. Look closely and often. I believe in starting observational drawing early and encouraging every child. 

Here's how I deal with the "I CANT'S" that are bound to arise with any students learning to draw. 
Although the I cant's are frustrating, I understand that drawing is hard work!
"If you knew how to draw already you wouldn't be in class and we wouldn't be practicing. We're trying our best today."
"Point to what you want to draw. What shape is it? "
 "Class, If you have tried to draw any part of your flower raise your hand. Put your hand on your back give yourself a pat. Awesome job getting started!" 
In a worse case scenario I sit next to a child with my own paper and draw what I see. The student can copy what I am doing on own their paper until they gain enough confidence to look at the object themselves.

The most important thing is that all students leave feeling like they tried something new. Be prepared. Many students won't "like" their first attempts. But I ask those kids if  I keep their art and put them on MY refrigerator at home. This usually puts a smile on their face. My refrigerator is full!


Janie B said...

AMEN!! I remember the first thing I drew after learning careful observation. It was a real eye opener, and I really want my students to feel it, too.

Phyl said...

I LOVE doing observational drawing with my kids - especially the younger ones becauses nobody has told them that they can't! I think that's where the intimidation begins.

A couple of years ago I ran an after-school drawing class with 1/2dozen staff members who asked. We did blind contours, used viewfinders, learned to shade using a light source, all sorts of stuff, even perspective, and self-portraits as a culminating activity. They were so wonderful. They all thought they couldn't draw and were SO proud of their accomplishments, and they even actually let me display their work in the hall!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comments. Totally agree Janie. I love to do blind drawing too. The third graders love it. The staff drawing class is an awesome idea! Maybe it will be the right time next year. I would LOVE to see teachers make art and relax. I love it when they come in the room and sit and make stuff with their class and it feels like a big family. It must've been great for the kids to see the teachers work in the hallway!!!

Very cool!

Christie - Fine Lines said...

I would LOVE to involve other teachers in the creative process and then display everyone's art. I wonder if anyone would be interested? Perhaps I'll introduce the thought in the lounge and see what happens. GREAT idea!

Phyl said...

Me again...
Erica, you have staff members who come in with their classes and make stuff with them?!!?!?! The only ones I have are the 1:1 teaching assistants who figure that since they are there with their student, they might as well do the project. But the classroom teacher NEVER NEVER stays. Art time is their precious prep time.

Artprojectgirl said...

Right now there is one teacher who comes a few minutes early and talks with the kids in her class and gets involved. Another teacher who was a good friend liked to stick around which I loved just for a few minutes but it was still fun. Unfortunately she got transferred to another school:( sorry if I got your hopes up. Art is a synonym for prep and xtra prep.