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Observational Drawing Project

Page history last edited by Frank Curkovic 8 years ago

8 weeks (1x80 minutes a week)


"Drawing is, primarily, to look with the eyes,

to observe, to discover.

Drawing is learning how to see..."

-Le Corbusier


"Picture Perfect"

Unit Objective: To create and draw realistic, interesting compositions in pencil using measured proportions, values and tones.

Students are evaluated on knowledge, process, participation as well as product.

*lessons and assignments may be subject to change at teacher's discretion


Key vocabulary: observation, crates, proportion, measurement, value, tone, tortillon, rubbing stump, blend, gradation


The Elements of Drawing from Oxford Univ. via iTunes

Stephen Farthing R.A. presents eight practical drawing classes using John Ruskin’s teaching collections to explain the basic principles of drawing. This series accompanies 'The Elements of Drawing', a searchable and browsable online version of the teaching collection and catalogues assembled by John Ruskin for his Oxford drawing schools. For further information please visit http://ruskin.ashmolean.org/




Week 1 - Measuring (Aug. 20-24)

Warm-up 1: Upside-down drawing activity and discussion.

Warm-up 2: Quick gesture drawings are done with simple objects, such as a cylinders (wine bottles).


Task 1: Students are introduced to observational drawing.

Still life sketches and drawings are executed paying close attention to proportions using the ‘crates’ technique. Students create these sketches with yellow marker and then the objects are outlined with a darker colour.



Homework: Create 2 drawings in marker at home of 2 separate simple objects focusing on the ‘crate’ technique. (Required)

View Common Drawing Mistakes and Solutions (Optional, but recommended)


Week 2 - cont’d (Aug. 27-Aug. 31)

Review and discuss homework.

Warm-up: Continuous line drawing of a bottle with a round object.


Task: Continue drawing simple cylindrical objects in marker paying close attention to proportions. Use the ‘crate’ technique. Students then create drawings that include 2 objects (cylinder + sphere). Students examine proportions and spacial relationships between geometrical objects using marker.


Homework: Create 2 drawings at home of 3 simple objects focusing on proportions and measurements. Use the ‘crate’ technique. DO NOT use an eraser. Create one picture as a line drawing in marker and the other realistically in pencil with shading. They may be the same still life if you wish. (Required)


How to Draw what you See: Techniques and Tips to Improve your Drawing Skills (Optional) 


Week 3 - Proportions (Sept. 3-7)

Review and discuss homework.

Warm-up: Gesture drawing


Task 1: Create drawings that include 3 overlapping objects (cylinder + sphere) using the ‘crate’ technique. Continue examining proportions and spacial relationships between geometrical objects using marker with a simple still life arrangement.


Task 2: Next students draw the same still life using pencil. How do we make the 2D look 3D? 

(Shading popcorn?)


Homework: (to be determined by teacher)

View info on Negative Space.

Realistically draw 3 overlapping kitchen objects together in proportion with pencil.


Pencil Shading Exercise (worksheet provided)


Week 4 - Value, Tone & Gradation (Sept. 10-14)

Review and discuss homework.

Warm-up: Student prepare a still life and attempt a continuous line drawing (10-15min)


Task 1: Whole still life drawing using crates.

How can we make our work look realistic?
Students will add value and tone to their work by focusing on light and shadow using pencil/tortillons. Focus on proportions, shadows and light.



Homework: With pencil, draw a gesture sketch of a whole potted plant, then draw a close-up section realistically and in detail. Focus on shadows and light. Also view next week's web links. (Required)


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: How to Draw what you See: Techniques and Tips to Improve your Drawing Skills

This article contains step-by-step images of the process Artist uses to create realistic looking drawings, as well as tips he have picked up over the years which anyone can use to improve their drawing skills.


Week 5 - Light & Shadow (Sept. 17-21)

Review and discuss homework. 

Warm-up: Sketches in 3min, 2min, 1min


Review of value/tone, line techniques and texture.


Task: Draw a format on your drawing paper (rectangle). Tone your paper with graphite stick and draw a plant with 2 other objects in pencil. You will use tortillons and graphite on A3 paper (minimum). Pay close attention to value and tone.


Homework: Complete task and view next week’s web links. (Required)

View the video below. (Optional)



Week 6 - Composition (Sept. 24-Sept. 28)

You will investigate "How can we create a good composition?"

During class, you will be given time to research and gather information in regards to creating compositions.

Record your findings in your Developmental Workbooks. Highlight useful terminology.

It would be beneficial to utilise some general photography sites for this. You should include pictures and examples to support your findings. Reference and cite all work. This will be used as assessment for "Criteria A: Knowledge & Understanding."

Tips: Rule of thirds, golden rectangle [1:1.6], angles, framing, balance, etc.



Review and discuss homework.

Composition (& definition)

Golden Rectangle

Visual Balance


The next class will involve:

During class, you will begin experimenting taking photos to practice and implement what you have learnt about composition. These photos will also be further cropped in iPhoto. Please have a camera or a phone with photo capabilities. 

You should try taking photos from multiple angles and distances etc. At home, you should also continue doing this.

These photos should be saved, printed and inserted into your Developmental Workbook. If you edit photos, you should include the before and after versions.

This work will also be assessed for Criteria A: Knowledge and Understanding.



View previous student work to critique.


Summative Assessment Task: Zoom In on Still Life (*Please note rubric) 
You will create a realistic still-life drawing. Please create a frame for your work. You may include objects that are relevant to you. For example, a sneaker, a candy bar or an iPod. Try to include a plant if possible. You may photograph the composition for reference. Pay close attention to proportions, values, tones and composition. Carefully consider composition, visual balance and angle. Will you try a low angle? High angle? Or simply place it at eye level? How can using the crates technique assist you with this? Your objects may run off the frame. Use the 'crate' technique to assist you. Try zooming in and focus on details!






How to Create An Excellent Observational Drawing: 11 Tips for High School Art Students


Homework: Work on assignment. 


Week 7 - cont’d (Oct. 1-5)

Students continue working on assignment. 


Homework: Complete assignment


Week 8 - Presentation & Self-Reflection

Presentations and self-evaluations of work

Student & Teacher rubric



(when writing a reflection, consider the whole process done in class beginning with the crates technique, composition, adding value etc)

You will need to include an artist statement/self reflection for your pieces.

In paragraph form, please include the following information as well as key vocabulary used in class. 

  • Describe the basic composition of your work.
  • Describe how you used different tones, effects, techniques and why.
  • Describe the difficulties you had and how you tried to overcome them.
  • What do you think you have learnt, or improved on in this project?
  • If you had to repeat this project, what would you improve on or do differently and why?


Key vocabulary: observation, crates, proportion, measurement, value, tone, tortillon, rubbing stump, blend, gradation

Read Blogging for Reflection to get tips.



Take various sketches while on field studies (landscape, plant & object close-ups, etc.)

You should also take reference photos. These will be used in class for the following project on pastels.


Student work from 2012-2013:

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