After observing still lives by Georgia O’Keeffe, elementary art students create their own “up-close” observational drawings.
PowerPoint: Observational Drawings
- 9″ x 9″ colorful construction paper
- Chalk pastels
- Assorted objects
I wanted to put a new spin on my usual Georgia O’Keeffe observational drawing project. In the past, I’ve had my students observe and draw flowers after learning about Georgia O’Keeffe. This year, my goal was to continue to focus on observational drawing and filling the whole paper, but to switch up the subject of their artwork.
We started by discussing Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork. Then I played my video demonstration for them which broke down the steps of looking at an object and drawing the lines and shapes you see.
After the video I followed up with a couple of important reminders. I showed them how to pick a part of the object to go off the page. I also encouraged them that our goal was not to create exact photocopies of our objects. (If we wanted to do that we would use a camera!)
Instead, our goal was to be inspired to create interesting lines and shapes.
Instead, our goal was to be inspired to create interesting lines and shapes. Overall, this took a lot of the pressure off and allowed the kids to focus on drawing what they actually saw instead of being critical of their artwork.
I chose objects that I had 6 multiples of; I did not want any “object envy” between tables to cause a disruption! I also tried to pick objects that were simple enough to sketch in one class, but with enough details to keep them interesting.
Observational drawing with students of any age is always a little stressful. Some students have a hard time getting started and others are easily discouraged when their drawing isn’t turning out how they envisioned it.
The best fix I’ve found is to let kids start on a fresh piece of paper when they get frustrated. And, of course, lots of pep talks! Another trick I’ve discovered for the kiddos who are about to give up completely is to offer them a “very special object” to draw. I have a couple of stuffed animals that work perfectly!
Most of them have time that first day to trace their pencil lines with Sharpie. If they have any extra time, I always have a Sketchbook Project that they can work on. For this assignment, they drew a spot they observed in the art room. They created so many fun drawings of our classroom!
I love how much my students felt free to experiment with the chalk pastels. In the second video demonstration, I showed them a couple of techniques they could use. Chalk pastels ended up being the perfect medium for this project. They were able to finish adding color to their project in one class period. And the freedom they had with the pastels was nice balance to how intensely they had to focus on the observational drawings.
I inherited the chalk pastel setup from the previous art teacher. Now that I’ve used muffin tins as a way to organize pastels, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. The kids had a wide variety of colors they could easily see and choose from. And I was able to put out the tiny little pieces that, in the past, I would have just thrown away.
This combination of subject and medium was a great way of tackling drawing from observation and introducing an artist. It felt less fraught than other realistic drawing lessons I’ve done. And a little controlled mess along with some color mixing always makes for a joyful art class!