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Aug 2015

Start the Year with Classy Doodling

Start the Year with Classy Doodling

Remember sitting in a meeting or class and doodling on your notes? Or, listening to music and doodling in time to the music? “On hold” for a phone call and mindlessly doodling? Or, waiting for the computer to load and having the lines just flow out of your hand?

This warm-up engages students in drawing and quells their fear of making marks on a clean sheet of paper. Through this project, students who say, “I can’t draw anything!” develop the confidence to try and are always successful.

Success in the classroom is built on positive accomplishments. The goals are to introduce the concepts of line and value and use these as the stepping-stone to other successes. We would do this project at the beginning of the year.

Six different directions of line are shown to the students: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, curved and wavy. They select two directions of line and draw one of these lines from one side of the paper to another side of the paper. They then continue adding lines to the paper by turning the paper to balance the drawing asymmetrically.

Students draw a line, then hold their paper at arm’s length in front of them and close their eyes. Then they open their eyes and see if their eye gets “stuck” in one part of the drawing. If this happens they need to draw another line on the opposite side of where their eye gets “stuck” to balance out the drawing. This will continue until most of the paper is filled with both directions of line.


Next, the negative spaces within the intersecting lines are addressed. Students can add line patterns within these negative spaces. These spaces can have lines that follow the direction of the boundary, or students may draw patterns within them. The negative shapes need to also be balanced asymmetrically.

Next, students add weight to the lines with a extra fine-tipped permanent black marker. They add three different weights to their lines: some can be quite skinny, some can be medium weight, and others can be a little heavier. One line can even have all three weights—a student can start a line being very skinny, make it a little thicker and then thicker still, and end with it being very skinny again. Where lines are concave, students are encouraged to thicken that part of the line to add depth to their drawings. Weights of line are distributed throughout the drawing asymmetrically.


Students Are introduced to Values Next. The value scale they work with include white, light gray, middle gray and black. They use No. 2 pencils for the light values, heavier pressure on them for the middle values, then an ebony pencil for the blacks or dark values.

They can darken the concave area at the bottom and gradually lighten it as it comes toward the top or vice versa. They can take the lines that “bump out” and consider those as highlights and the opposite sides are the dark areas. The students must add at least four different values to their doodling in an asymmetrically balanced design. When the students are adding values to their compositions, encourage them to have an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of copy paper under their hands to prevent smudging.

As you can see, each student’s doodling is so different. They learn how to handle line and value with this first project of the year. This is a great foundation of what is to come. It is amazing to look back at the end of the year to see how much the students developed their confidence and creativity.

Learning Objectives
High-school students will …
• become familiar with the different directions and weights of line.
• become familiar with value to create the illusion of depth.
• create an asymmetrically balanced composition.

National Art Standards
• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.

• 9″ x 12″ sulfite paper
• No. 2 pencil, ebony pencil, eraser
• Black extra fine-tip permanent marker
• 8.5″ x 11″ copy paper

Now retired, Sandi Pippin taught art for 38 years, most recently at Langham Creek High School in Houston, Texas.



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