Realistic Art with Phillip Martin
Lesson Plan
Learner Outcomes: .................................................... ....................................................
Color: Understand that shades and tints have value
Design: Understand all space in a piece of art must be considered
Line: Appreciate line is used to represent the world around us
Experiment with up to eight varieties of lines
Shape: Understand shapes can escape boundaries of pictures
  Use shape to draw the world around them
  Understand the concept of symmetry in Art
Space: Realize positive and negative space influences the composition of a picture
Use overlapping to show perspective
Texture: Appreciate that texture is used to enhance realism
Appreciate that texture is used to enhance aesthetics
Materials: 25 regular leaded pencils (HB)
  25 soft leaded pencils (4B)
  25 art erasers
  25 sheets 12" x 18" drawing paper
  multiple sheets of bond paper
  acrylic spray
Vocabulary: Tints, Shade, Line, Positive and Negative Space, Symmetry, Perspective, Texture


The final goal of this unit is to create still life drawings. However, there are many steps leading to this final project. Each of these steps can take one or more periods to complete. Upon completion of each lesson, have the students write comments on what they have learned and what they think. Collect them, compile them, and send them home with report card comments.

Gesture Drawings -- Begin with 30 second drawings. Not much can be drawn in that amount of time. But, that is the beauty of a gesture drawing. It only captures the moment. It's done quickly and nobody can really have a great piece of art in that amount of time. Use students as models. Everyone who wants to have a turn may have one. Gradually, increase the time from thirty seconds to a minute, two minutes, and five minutes. Poses may involve one or more models. It is amazing how much detail can be put into a five minute drawing after having made a few 30 second ones. The drawing at the top of the page was done in five minutes.

Blind Contour Drawings - Emphasis that if the drawings are good, you know they are cheating. With Blind contour drawings, have the students draw their hands in different positions. Then, move on to their shoes. With blind contour drawings, you never look at the paper until you are done. There is a lot of bad art created in this lesson.

Modified Contour Drawings - This technique allows for much better results. Students slowly count to ten and draw. Hands and feet work well again. The trick for success is to draw slowly. At the end of every ten seconds, you can check your drawing and reposition you pencil.

Contour Drawings - Finally, this is what the students have been waiting for. They want to draw! Let them choose from any objects in the room and see what they create. Observe, draw the contour of the objects and create without restrictions.

Drawing with Basic Shapes / Lines of Symmetry / Parallel Lines - (two lessons) Many students find more success with their drawings if they first look for basic shapes in objects (circles, ovals, triangles, squares, rectangles). Using objects found in the room, start with a step-by-step approach at the board. Draw the basic shape. Many objects, especially the ones you demonstrate with the kids, may be drawn easier with the use of lines of symmetry and parallel lines. So, wherever possible, use these lines as a guide for the students.

Lines of Symmetry - If you look at most lamps and divide them in half from top to bottom, usually the left side matches the right side. That trick helps students with their drawings.

Parallel Lines - If you draw Abraham Lincoln's top hat, using three parallel lines to help draw the hat. Use a line at the top of the hat as well as a line for the top and the bottom of the brim.

Positive and Negative Space - (two lessons) For the finished still life drawing, students will draw three objects to nearly fill the entire page. I throw out restrictions of size and normal placement as long as the page is filled. This means a shoe could be huge on the page while a car could be a much smaller object. Also, the placement of the objects don't have to be realistic. It's more important to fill the space. This takes some practice to do successfully. Students work with only contours until they have a design that works.

Helpful hint: Give the students freedom to select three objects with a few limitations. No pencils, rulers, glue sticks, scissors, paintbrushes, or other extremely skinny objects. Objects with lots of lettering, like paint jars and soap containers, are also difficult to do well. The objects drawn should require basic shapes, lines of symmetry and parallel lines - just like the drawings practiced in class.

Shading - After practicing with filling the page with three objects, students need to practice with values. Trace both sides of a ruler to create two rectangles about five inches long. In one rectangle, divide the rectangle into five boxes, numbered one through five. One is white, two medium light, three medium, four medium dark, and five black. In the second rectangle, use the same five values but try to make gradual blending.

Successful shading needs a balance of all five values. You can't just have one small area with a five and say, "I've done my fives." You also have to have areas with contrast (with ones next to fives). Outline with a sharp pencil, and then try to hide that line with shading up to the line. It makes for very clean edges. When applying the values, start with ones and twos. It is too easy to make too many dark values. The twos can be made with a regular pencil. Threes, fours, and fives need to be made with a soft pencil.

The Final Still Life Drawing - It takes weeks to do it well. The initial drawing must be made with a regular pencil so they may erase. It helps to use a piece of paper to separate the drawing hand from the art. This prevents smudging. If the artists do smudge (and they will) cover the actual drawing area with a piece of paper and then erase the smudge. When the piece is completed, spray the drawing with an acrylic spray to protect from further smudges.

Copyright 2000, revised 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.