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Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to introduce certain concepts to your students. This is especially true when a single class could contain students at three different stages of drawing development.
Although many students won’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) draw from life realistically until they’re approaching middle school, the act of practicing is beneficial.
This is because drawing from life isn’t really about drawing, but about looking. While having young students draw from life may or may not improve their drawing skills, it definitely improves their seeing skills. And, we know how important it is for artists to be able to observe!
It’s no surprise that young students aren’t going to be into the traditional still-life objects. No skulls, vases, or old telephones, please!
Instead, you might want to consider some of these options.
Because you want the focus to be on looking, it’s essential to keep things simple.
To set up your still-lifes, I suggest using just 3-5 objects to start with. If you have table groups, make an arrangement for each one so they can really see things up close. You can keep these on trays to easily store them from class to class.
When demonstrating, it’s important not to get too deep. Focus on shapes and contour lines. Depending on the age range, you may also want to talk about how to make an object look like it is behind another object by just drawing part of it.
I recommend spending just one 30-60 minute class period on observational drawing. At this age, it’s an exercise, not a path to a finished product. Although some of your students may come up with fairly representational pieces, that’s not the point. The point is that students are developing their observational skills, and having fun in the process!
Although it may seem daunting to introduce young students to observational drawing, it doesn’t have to be. Choose an engaging subject matter, simplify your presentation, and keep the exercise to one class period. Sprinkling in a few observational projects throughout the year will really help your students learn to see like artists.
When do you introduce observational drawing to your students?
Do you have any other tips to share?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors from across the nation and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University or any of its academic offerings.