As the “Introduction to Art” teacher, a diverse group of students from grades 9–12 attend my classes, all with varying levels of interest and ability. I have found that I need to ease the classes in to new skills and concepts, one baby step at a time.
Learning to draw from life can be intimidating. Sighting proportion and placement is a challenge for new artists. This project removes some of these variables and gives them a manageable genuine introduction to still life.
To prepare for this project, I cut sheets of foam insulation board into 12″ x 12″ pieces, which I then paint one color. I attach ribbon to these boards with T-pins, being sure to create a variety of curls and twists. I then add old Christmas ornaments of various sizes, hot gluing them to the boards. Empty paper boxes and binder clips serve as the stands. (I provide one still-life arrangement for every two students.)
The project begins with each student receiving a 12″ x 12″ sheet of tagboard and circle patterns that correlate to the sizes of the ornaments. They place the circles on their papers in the correct position, as I talk with them about sighting where the ornaments fall in the composition, as well as their relationship to each other. Once the circles are placed correctly, the students trace them onto their tag board. (Be sure students save these circles for use in the final step of the project.)
Before they begin to draw the ribbon, I assist students in what to look for by projecting a photo of the still life on a whiteboard, and tracing some of the major shapes I see. When the projector is turned off, the drawn shapes are visible on the whiteboard. (This could also be done with printed photos of the still life and each student tracing the shape on transparency paper.)
Students then begin sketching the ribbons with No. 2 pencils. Once finished, they shade the ribbons using a softer 6B pencil. The slight sheen of the ribbon helps create areas of value that are easy for beginners to see.
Once the ribbons are fully shaded, a thin border is drawn around them, leaving a narrow band of white in-between (this strip of white serves to highlight the ribbons). The background is then painted with acrylics up to the pencil border and the art is set aside to dry.
The circles are to be filled with lyrics from students’ favorite songs. Each arranges them how they want, and uses varying typefaces if they wish. They print out their lyrics, trace the circle patterns on the back, cut them out, and then glue them onto their projects.
This has proven to be an effective introduction to still life. With the variable of proportion removed from the equation, students can instead focus on drawing what they see, and practicing sighting and shading.
The students also enjoy the opportunity to express themselves through their choice of lyrics. This project could easily be coordinated with the language-arts teacher, with students filling the circles with poems or passages they are studying in class.
High-school students will …
• draw from life.
• learn to only draw what they see.
• sight proportion and placement
• learn how to shade.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Still-life arrangement (ribbons, ornaments, foam insulation board, T-pins
• 12″ x 12″ white tagboard
• Acrylic paint, paintbrushes
• No. 2 and 6B pencils
• Glue sticks, tape, scissors
Rebecca Tarman teaches art at Fairfield Junior Senior High in Goshen, Ind.
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