Friday, January 16, 2009

Figure Drawing with Fourth Grade

Back during my glory days at Kutztown, NAEA invited Sandy (retired teacher from Boyertown and Crayola Rep) to come and do a Crayola demonstration. She also spoke to my Early Field class. In all her projects and comments, one thing that stood out to me was doing figure drawing with elementary students! It seemed crazy--very ambitious! I didn't do figure drawings until Art III in 12th grade!

Her results were beautiful. I was convinced.

My drawing curriculum involves a lot of drawing from life. My 3rd graders drew the bicycle for four weeks. That's also a project I did in high school. But these kids can handle it! It challenges them, but if you give them the tools (three types of lines: straight, angled, curved, and some ENCOURAGEMENT and CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM), they can see it and learn to put that down on paper!

One thing Sandy said about doing this project: She always put the kids in costumes.

There are lots of benefits to costumes. Costumes lighten the mood. They can create a social studies tie-in, with the appropriate dress and props. Most importantly, they deflect the attention from the child, and their body, to the inanimate clothing, and its folds, bumps, lumps, seaming, etc.

I find this to be very important to my children. In Asian cultures, standing out from the group is not viewed as a good thing. It is a collectivist society, and you want to fit in. There may be pressure to fit in in the states, but we still put extreme value on being an individual. You're a star. Here's your chance to shine!

My students can be very shy when singled out. The costume puts a barrier between them and the group, and makes it about the clothing.

It also makes it so much easier for me to offer constructive criticism. Excuse me, you didn't make her butt big enough... Instead, I can say, look at the way the costume bumps out in the back. Make sure you draw that line. None of the costumes are fitted (check out how long most of the sleeves are!), so it always provides that option to comment on the thickness created by the costume.

I am also very careful to redirect any comments that might hurt the model's feelings. When a student is bold enough to hold up their drawing and say "look at how crazy you look," I am quick to add that it's not because the model is weird-looking, but because the drawing is crazy.

All of the students blew me away with the results! Here's an album of some of the highlights. Click on the link below the slideshow to look through the images slowly and read my captions...

I rearrange the classroom before the students come in the room. I put two small tables together in the center, making a square. The longer tables are then arranged, all six, around the perimeter of the room. I randomly place the students at the six tables, looking into the center. Any student that wants a chance to model writes their name on a small piece of paper. All the names are put in a bowl and I pick out two models for that class period. The first model comes with me to get a costume from my office, which is directly across the hall (remember, I have a TA, so she is still in the room with the kids). We come back, everyone giggles, and the model hops up onto the table. Each model does three poses. Usually one standing, one sitting on a chair, and one sitting directly on the table. These poses only last 5-7 minutes. Being still for that long is VERY challenging for the models! I remind the students not to worry about drawing eyes, noses,'s about the clothing! After all three poses, the model takes off the costume (just worn over his or her clothes) and the new model comes to get a new costume. Lather, rinse, and repeat!

Interestingly, most of the kids can finish a decent drawing in those few minutes. I remember wanting at least 15 minutes, maybe more, when we did figure drawing in high school.

One of my students is incredibly talented! I've seen her gifting in other projects, but the drawings make it very apparent.

I was showing her drawings from our second class to Mrs. Greene (the secondary art teacher). I told her that I couldn't take any credit for her skill level. Looking back at her first drawing, I do see improvement based on my suggestions. Her first drawing is "perfect" in a bad way. It's more like a fashion drawing and less like an actual person. I talked to her about not drawing a straight line if the belt actually is at a slight angle. We talked about the specific folds, seaming, and all the details of the pose.

The drawing on the left is her first drawing. The drawing on the right is from the second class.

The shirt had puffing at the shoulders, and the LONG skirt with a stretchy, gathered waist, was actually inside out, so the unfinished fabric edges were visible down the back of the skirt.

I made an album with some of her drawings.

You can see two of her drawings from the first week, and five from the second week, after I talked to her about drawing the specific folds, seams, draping, etc.

I'm not sure I can draw this well, and certainly not in five minutes!

By the way, I didn't say ANYTHING to the class or invidual students about line quality or using value, yet some of the students used both very effectively!

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