Thursday, July 18, 2013

Durer hand Study

Learn about the following
  • Reductive drawing using chalk
  • Observational drawing of the hand
  • hand proportions
  • religious art in the renaissance
Image of Durer's "Praying Hands"

Look at Durer's Praying Hands and discuss what they are doing and the role of religion in Renaissance artwork.  Note that it is a sketch not a finished work, yet it is important and valuable.  Draw a hand together using basic proportions.  Here are some links that are helpful if you arent familiar with drawing hands

  1. Make a medium ground out of chalk pastel (yellows and blacks are a bit too light and too dark for this)
  2. Smear the chalk with a tissue to make a nice even medium ground.
  3. Draw either praying hands or a simple "hello" hand
  4. Use the eraser to make highlights and your chalk to drop shadows in.

This does get messy so roll up your sleeves and wear aprons!  For younger students we used a hot glue gun to attach watercolor butterflies we cut out of some practice watercolor paper from a previous project.

For images of student work click here or here

Durer Insect Drawing

Durer's Stag beetle was the inspiration for this lesson.  A key thing is to have bugs for the students to observe.  There are plenty of stink bugs hanging around my house, however, I once tried to collect them for my high school class to draw and the result was a horrific sight that can be summed it up in two words, smelly cannibals.  I didn't want to disturb my little art classes with the stink bugs so I tried a technique I read about in the book, The Last Child in the Woods.  I put a board down in my yard and expected bugs to gather under it overnight. When my students and I went to get out bugs the morning of the class, no bugs gathered.  Not even an ant.  So we went off in search of bugs.  I have a flower patch in my front yard, overflowing with daisies, and miracle of miracles, there were ladybugs everywhere in there! We cut some daisies for our little friends to hang out on while we observed and drew them in the classroom.  I can honestly say this is one of the funnest lessons I have ever taught.

Draw from observation
learn about insects
Learn about nature and the Renaissance

Clear jars with holes in the lids
Magnifying glass

Go collect bugs and discuss the 3 parts of an insect (head, thorax, abdomen) and how many legs they have (6).  Observe your bugs with the magnifying glass and have students describe what they see.  Have students draw the parts of an insect (we drew a stag beetle together and a ladybug)  Look at Durer's beetle and identify the three parts and ask students how he made it look so real.

Observe and draw one of the insects using pencil and add color with watercolor.
We drew one together, and painted it in together.  

For more images of student work click here or here

Durer Rhino Drawing


  • draw using shapes
  • use ink and watercolor
  • draw using your imagination
Paper towels or rags
Water container
Brushes (small and medium)
Image of Durer's Rhino
Image of an Indian Rhino


Give students the description of the Rhino that was given to Albrecht Durer and have them draw something that fits the description. (I drew it with them and added a few things of my own)  Tell them not to say it out loud if they figure out what it is.

Here is a summary
  • It is the color of a speckled tortoise
  • the size if an elephant but shorter legs
  • almost entirely covered by thick scales
  • enemy of the elephant
  • fast, impetuous and cunning
  • strong pointed horn on the end of its nose (say this last!)

I also added the following 
  • Ears like a horse
  • eyes like a snake
After they draw something that matches the description show them Durer's Rhinoceros  (I gave each a copy of it for their sketchbooks)  and a real photo of an Indian Rhinoceros  Discuss similarities and differences, pointing out that Durer added a few things of his own, like extra horns on the Rhino's shoulders.  

For more into on the Rhino click here

  • Draw the Rhino together in pencil using basic shapes.
  • Draw basic shapes they see in the Rhino together. (circle, square, leaf shapes for the ears, frowning mouth for the nose, jelly belly shape for the body, triangles etc.)
  • After the students draw the Rhino using shapes, have them trace the outline of their rhino onto another paper (watercolor paper if possible) in pencil then pen, or for younger students just trace it in pen, mainly tracing the outline, and let them use their imagination to add things to their Rhino.  We used a window to trace their drawn Rhino onto a new paper.
  • Use water color to paint it in.  We used gray for the Rhino and its shadow and a blue for the background.
For more images click here  or here

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Figure Drawing

Figure drawing is so fun to do with all ages.  The greatest challenge for me is to not ruin the amazing way they already draw the figure.  Im talking about arms coming out of the head, and the circle hands.  Here are some tips to teach figure drawing;

  • Teach proportions (facial and body) but explain that not one of us is exactly like the other, and that they are important for "realistic" drawings
  • Have them look at their own proportions and see if they are correct
  • Talk about the shapes of the face
  • Draw a face together
  • Do gesture drawings where the students take turns being the model
  • Make a stick figure flip book
  • Use a grid to draw a portrait
  • Trace a real portrait to practice
  • Draw different expressions
  • Draw the gesture drawings with crayola washable markers and paint it with water to make it bleed and look like the figure is moving
  • Do a reductive drawing of a hand or part of the figure
  • Draw the figure using the shadows on the face (the eyes, under the nose, the top or bottom lip, and under the chin
  • Let the students draw their own hands
  • Make stencils of the students faces
  • Draw hairstyles
  • Draw someone they admire...or hate
  • Design clothing for their figures
  • Draw 10 peoples eyes
  • Ok there are a ton of ways to teach the figure I usually start out with the whole and move to the parts, that way you are not erasing the eyes you spent three hours on when you realize your head needs to move to the side.

For more images of student work go to my gallery

Friday, April 26, 2013

Shaving Cream Prints


Shaving Cream
Food Coloring 
Skewer or Toothpick
This is one of my favorite printmaking methods.  The supplies can be found in most homes and the prints are simple and bright. 


1.  Spray out enough shaving cream to be at least ¼ inch thick and the size of the print you   
     are making

2.  Spread it smooth with your ruler or anything with a straight edge 

3.   Drop in your food coloring (Watch the little ones to make sure they don’t use the whole 
      bottle of food coloring, maybe give them a range like  “more than two drops but not more 
      than ten”)  (You may want to wear gloves for this part)

4.   Use a toothpick or skewer and swirl the food coloring into the shaving cream.  (Keep the 
      skewer at a 90 degree angle to keep if from mixing the shaving cream instead of swirling
      the color)

5.   Lay a piece of paper on top of the shaving cream, lightly pressing it down so the color is      
       absorbed into the paper 

6.   Take the paper of and scrape off the remaining shaving cream with a clean ruler.    
       (Scrape into the color so you don’t drag it across your white areas)



  • Use a stencil to print only the areas you choose
  • Use the ruler to smooth the color
  • Sculpt the extra shaving cream
  • 1. Spray shaving cream
  • *Students need only one sheet of shaving cream, 
  • they can keep adding more color to it

2. Spread Shaving Cream smooth with ruler
3. Drop in food coloring
4. Swirl food coloring with toothpick or smooth it with ruler (this was smoothed with a ruler)

5. Lay stencil on shaving cream, and press paper on top, then remove paper
6. Scrape away the shaving cream

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Watercolor Flower


This is a lesson I have taught maybe over 30 or 100 times... lets just say allot.  You can teach basic watercolor technique with it and discuss the beauty of things around us, things we may overlook.  If I could paint flowers, live, beautiful, vibrant flowers, for the rest of my days, life would be bliss.   I guess I really could if I wanted   I cant commit to one art form.

BASIC STEPS (Basic is in bold text, elaborate descriptions are underneath)

1. Introduce students to Georgia O'Keefe by showing them one of her flower paintings, I prefer Red Canna, 1924.  

Ask students what it is.  Some may recognize it.  Draw a standard cartoon daisy like flower (think..Murakami flowers) and talk about the difference between that flower and georgia O Keeffe's flower.  Talk about how, as an artist, you choose what you paint.  You dont have to paint the whole image, you dont even have to paint what you see, maybe you will paint what you feel.  For todays lesson we are going to paint a part of what we see.  Part of a flower.  Ideally, you would paint this flower together, then put fresh flowers in front of the students, or go outside, and have them paint a flower however they feel like painting it.  

2. Draw the flower together

THE PAPER:I use cheap watercolor paper at the store, because I consider this a practice.  We make a simple taped border with masking tape to create a white frame.  THE FLOWER: This could be fresh, real flowers, or a print out of one you took, or most likely googled.  I choose lilies.  I love the phrase "lilies of the field".  The Lilly I used for years not longer appears on google images and I cant find it on my computer.  So if you find a good one, save it where you can find it again.  I label the petals, and talk about how they may not look like a petal, they might look like a rock, or a hill. Lines that make up the edge of the petals might be a rainbow or arc.  This is also a good time to point out negative space.  In the case of the flower I just painted with my class the whole flower seems to be one shape, the background, or negative space, makes triangles on the edge of the paper, that may be easier to draw than the actual petals.  If you want to integrate this with science or botany, talk about the parts of the flower and what they are for.  The parts I said were shaped like a bean, and the freckles on the petals have much more interesting names I'm sure.

3. Paint a background color Behind the flower (optional)

I should put optional behind all of these descriptions of what to do!  Paint LIGHT TO DARK and normally, FAR TO NEAR.   In this case we didnt paint far to near because our background was simple ( no tree branches, etc)  We did paint light to dark.  This makes it so much easier to correct mistakes and avoid covering up the lighter areas.  Glazing (painting layers of watercolor) is a technique that makes watercolor appear rich, and can bring an image together.   For my flower we painted the background bright yellow because it seems like yellow shines through the petals to me.   Remember, when painting a large area, have your students make a large puddle of water in the watercolor tray for the yellow.  Use a large, bright (square) paintbrush to paint it in.  As this layer dries start mixing the colors for you next layers in more puddles.

4.  Paint in the rest of the colors, LIGHT TO DARK

After you have the colors mixed in the tray in puddles that are big enough to cover the  areas they are needed, begin painting.  TIP: AVOID SCRUBBING THE PAPER.  There is no need to go over an area over and over with the same color, it will not make it darker if you immediately do it and will end up scrubbing through the paper.  If I paint an area and I dont like my edges, I wash my brush out dry it a little and go over the edge, or take a lighter color over it.  For the particular flower we were painting, the color tends to burst from the center.  None of the brush strokes go horizontally across a petal, but from the inside out.

5.  Add details and the background

Add the "freckles" on the petals, dark shadows you may have missed, and paint in the background.  This is a good time to talk about color theory.  What colors would look the best?  Why?  What would a black background look like compared to light blue?  Art is about making decisions, and those decisions dont ever have to be backed by reason, however, it helps to talk about what affect different decisions have on the overall composition. (will any of this make sense in the morning?)

6.  Let it dry, take the tape off the edges, give it a Title

Carefull when taking tape off, it can take paper off with it and tear into the painting.  Let the students title their paintings.  Make sure they see each others.  If inclined, point out how different they all are even though you painted the same flower.  How did that happen?  This could be a great discussion!