My Visual Art teaching diary
I have a great fortune to teach a seven-year-old girl about art and drawing. She is passionate about drawing but lacks the skills and confidence. I want to sustain her passion, but at the same time build up her skills and keep inspiring her. I will be posting the weekly art lessons and observations.
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#28 Pouring art on mobile case
- Introduce visual color mixing
- Encourage elements of changes, accidents and experiments in creativity
- I have to admit I was a bit annoyed by Anna’s inclination to make everything perfect, smooth and well-blended. I explained to her the concept of placing colors next to each other and letting the viewer’s eyes do the color mixing; however, she did not find this idea interesting, and she could not resist mixing the colors in the cup. She loved the sense of control over the stirring of the colors. I think what I can do is show her works of impressionist artists who master the techniques of visual color mixing. And I talked to an experienced teacher, she thinks a child might not understand now, but she will remember when she grows up. I learn that being a teacher sometimes is like a farmer planting a seed in the field, hoping it will grow into a sunflower.
-Anna seems to prefer figurative narrative drawings over abstract paintings.
#27 Draw a person’s face by the proportion
- Introduce measurement and concept of proportion
- Measuring things require discipline, and it is not something a child gets used to doing. Anna lost her interest quickly after 30 minutes and starts painting her fingers. However, I am glad I did introduce to her the relationship between measurement and realism. At the end of the class, I asked her to give a title to the self-portrait she drew, she wrote “photo of Anna”. I think she is already able to grasp the intention of measuring things in a drawing- ie, making things look photo realistic and proportional.
Anna was realized surprised when I show her how wide her shoulders actually are. At Anna’s age, her drawings are characterized by a big head and small body, and fists. This a normal and what children's paintings should be. I try to stop myself from going too far into teaching her about proportion.
#26 Draw a person’s profile
- At first, I prepare myself to teach Anna the concept of proportion, but then when I am teaching on the spot, my intuition tells me this might not be a good time yet. Anna is seven years old now, she loves playing with colors, and trying different drawing tools…it seems accuracy and precision are not that important. At her age, children usually draw people that looks alike. They might have different hair and cloth to indicate gender but it is hard to tell the characters apart. Therefore precision is not a priority. So I decide to let myself go and just let her through the process of drawing.
- I am really happy she learn to mix the skin colors herself. I ask her how she comes up with that skin color. She said “ I don't have red color, so I use pink. Pink is too red, and people's skin is tinted with yellow by nature, so I add a little yellow to the pink, and then I mix white to make the skin lighter..” OH my god, I want to cry…she is able to internalize and make these color mixing decisions…I think I am doing ok as an art teacher =-)
#25 Draw characters by using simple shapes and lines
- To practice drawing people
- NOT to draw realistically
- Learn about the concept of contrast
#24 Create a pumpkin car using cardboard paper
- To practice modelling a stand-alone object
- To learn about geometry and shapes
- I think I did not do very well in this lesson plan. Firstly, I am ok with cutting cardboard myself, but I neglect the fact that kid’s hand muscles are less developed and they just start learning how to cut with sissors, so cutting shapes out of cardboard will be something difficult for them. I noticed Anna start poking holes into the cardboard instead of cutting it (its quite clever of Anna to think of another way out =-). Eventually she gave up and asked me for help instead. Then she rather indulge herself into drawing instead- something she find easy and capable of handling. Later I checked with some more experienced teachers, they all think cardboard art is for primary four and up students!
#23 Get wired 1. Design rings with pipe cleaners
- To design one object with several different solutions
- To practice designing jewellry
- To practice wire sculpting techniques
- Show examples of rings created by pipe cleaners
- Demonstrate how a piper cleaner can be bended, kneaded and squeezed into a heart shaped ring. Also show how it can be ornamented with accessories. Let Anna practice along with different steps.
- After creating the basic heart shaped ring, ask Anna to imagine open her own jewllery shops and design more rings with different styles.
- I am so happy because she said at the end of class “I love these pipe cleaners. I feel like I can create many things with them”.
- Anna at first is stuck to the basic technique of making a heart. She seems to be afraid to try other approaches. She said “ I am making a ring for my mom and I know she won’t like a double heart”. So I try making a flower and inspire her with other possibilities. Gradually she try making a snake, a Huggy Wuggy face, a rabbit…etc.
- I find that I should show more trust and let her come up with her own solutions sometimes. I want to find an actual bead to decorate the ring, but Anna does not have it, so she think of using the “eye” and over it with gold sparkle. It works!
#22 Let's paint a tiger in Chinese ink
- When drawing a more complex object (eg. tiger), it is helpful to give step-by-step instructions so that kids can follow. Anna understood how to draw a tiger, from that she drew a cat herself.
#21 Acrylic pour painting
- Further introduce colour: Saturation/ Values / Hues
- It takes a while for Anna to grasp the meaning of color “saturation”.
#20 Make a time machine
- Inspire imagination
- Introduction to design thinking principles
Instructions: The first step of design thinking is about understanding one’s need. I tried to adopt the same approach and help Anna figures out what she wants to make.
#19 Make a traditional curved building (Tong Lau)
- Stimulate imagination
- Appreciate historic buildings in Hong Kong
- 3D form
- Tell stories
#18 Let a child paints her own bed (Day3)
This week we try to finish painting the bed.
- Learn blending techniques.
- Decide where to apply the blend
- Mix a lighter or analogous color of the selected surface color
- Apply the second color to the surface. Now we have 2 separate colors fields. Then we try to blend them together. In the section where the 2 colors meet, lightly blend the colors in a crisis crosshatch pattern. Avoid painting in a straight line.
- Using the spray bottle, lightly mist the blended areas with water to smoothen the colors out.
- I am truly happy when Anna proudly told me “I can create a color!”. I am glad this exercise gave her a sense of control over the use of colors.
- She told me she dreamt of unicorns. You go, girl! This is just the start of the art journey.
#17 Let a child paints her own bed (Day2)
This week we move on to paint the bed’s top frames.
- Learn about color transformation through mixing
- Learn about light to dark values
- Get into the habit of pre-conceiving an idea/plan before implementation
- Remind Anna of the design sketch she created in the last class
- Pick out the main colors for the top bars
- Practice mixing colors on paper first. This will be easier when painting on the actual bed frames. Does she show a gradation in values? How about differences in hues?
- Carry the mini color palette created and apply them on a larger surface. Let’s do it!
- Anna resisted using a bigger brush even painting on a larger surface. Is this a matter of habit? Or is this due to a fear of loss of control?
- Anna is able to blend 2 colors together and make a third color. I am so happy when she said, “I create the color”.
- She remembers color theory concepts such as complementary colors
#16 Let a child paints her own bed (Day1)
Last week Anna told me wanted to paint her bunk bed. I think this will be an unforgettable experience for Anna. Perhaps due to my design background, I will try to get the stakeholder's approval first. LOL. So today I am going to help Anna make a concept drawing/ mood board and pitch it to her parents!
- Learn to explore and come up with ideas
- Learn to visualize the ideas
- Learn painting techniques such as stenciling
1. Show examples of painted furniture
2. Bed is a place to dream, sleep, read, tell stories…etc. Ask what kind of a place and world she imagines it to be. Invite suggestions. Come up with word associations.
3. Consider color choices, patterns, shapes, textures, things they want to include..etc. Try to draw them on paper first. Using stencils is one way to create nice effects.
4. Make a concept drawing of the bed with the combined ideas.
- Like mentoring a young designer on using a style guide takes some time, reminding Anna the use of a consistent color palette does not come naturally.
- Need to paint with a big brush and gesture
- Anna’s client (parents) is awesome, dad and mom just let her paint as she wishes.
#15 Chinese Ink painting in baby steps
It is not easy to teach Chinese ink, due to some of its abstract concepts, such as “Chi”, “expressionism over form”, “vitality”…etc. Besides, the Chinese brush is expressive but the way to hold is quite different from the normal day-to-day holding of a pen.
I felt the previous classes were not much of a success. Anna was not excited about the medium. Therefore I start modifying the lesson approach, instead of just telling all the techniques and rules, I try to use other means to engage the 7 years old. For instance, I start role playing today. I pretend to be a Chinese ink robot who is capable of applying different pressures to brush strokes, some of the lines the robot created are as light as feather or wild as typhoons 8.
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#14 Let’s make a Chinese Lantern!
Concept: Chinese ink medium, 3D structures
-Explore the Chinese ink materials, such as rice paper, ink density, water, brushes
I think I over-estimate the ability of a kid to create 3D structures, too much measuring and precision will turn them away from having fun. She got bored quickly. Instead of creating a box from scratch, things might get easier if I reused a tissue box and try to make holes out of it. Another idea is to use popsicle sticks for the surfaces instead of papers, in this way, less measurement is required, which will speed up the whole process.
I should have included a background that covers the basis of 3D structures, such as examples of shapes that become 3D. This give rise to opportunities, the lanterns do not have to be rectangular, it can be cubical, triangular or even cone shapes!
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#13 Drawing a DJ turntable
- Explore the oil material
- Practice color mixing
- Invoke imagination (visualize music through colors and shapes)
Last week I introduced oil painting techniques such as blending, layering and let Anna played with brush strokes. I observed she really likes the oil medium and the cardboard paper. So this week, I decided to keep this momentum going and draw another oil painting. What should we draw? Interestingly, Anna said she wanted to draw a DJ Turntable! So my objective is to introduce oil painting techniques through this subject matter.
- Look at pictures of turntables.
- Discuss the use of colors. What will be the colors for the turntable and background? How does the music make you feel? What will you hear as the music plays? Show works of Mattise, highlight the use of background colors in his paintings.
- Mix a color and fill the canvas background
- Sketch the turntable using pencil (introduce drawing object at an angle to suggest depth)
- Paint the turntable
- Decorate the background with shapes and colors.
The class turned out to be quite different from what I planned. Instead of painting a still-life with a background, Anna insisted on just painting the turntable. I asked, “ How about we let the turntable talks by giving it a mouth?” She said, “No, I want it to be just black”. I was surprised because she always want pink for everything. Later I learned that there is a reason behind her little creative mind. She actually wants to create a realistic-looking turntable so she can play on it afterward! She is very clever. Her work reminds me of Magritte’s pipes. The painting looks 2D and simplistic; however, it is three-dimensional and alive in her mind! It looks very basic and lacks techniques in the adult’s eyes, however, it is a reality in her mind and I remembered she kept saying “This is my dream world!”. Watch how she played with the cardboard and became a DJ at the end of the class! I learn to listen, be flexible and let her express herself. As a teacher, I try to set up rules and instructions on one hand; On the other hand, I should let the kid experiment and take risks on her own.
Besides, something I noticed as well was that music helps to keep Anna focused on the task. Now I am keeping an “Anna playlist” in Spotify. =-)
Yo!! Anna, you rock!!!!!
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#12 Hide and seek the “hearts“ in a secret garden
Concept: Pattern making with basic shapes, design principles
- To encourage children to draw and create “things” by combining simple shapes.
- Encourage creativity and imagination
- I think this exercise works at the beginning, it pushes her to think beyond just a “heart”, she even designs lamps, birds, flowers based on heart shapes. However, I see she gets tired in the end, she said: “Can I not draw hearts?”. I think perhaps the sketchbook might be too big (A3), it requires lots of mental energy and focuses from a 7 years old kid. How can I come up with a project that is simple/ quick/easy but fun/inspiring/artistic at the same time?
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#11 Inventing colors
Concept: Color mixing, patterns
- Learn about the primary colors and how they combine to form secondary colors.
- At first, Ann tends to mix pink- her favorite; however, setting up a rule that each color should be new and unique, forces her to change her habit. I think this exercise helps her to let go.
- However, I have to admit following rules and changing habits can be uncomfortable. After 15mins of color filling, she got tired and lost her concentration. Eventually, she asked, “Can I make a free-style drawing?”
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#10 Picasso inspired portrait
Concept: Shapes, contrasting colors
- To encourage creativity and playfulness in art-making. That art does not need to be perfect.
- To use unusual bright colors to paint a portrait.
- To introduce Picasso and his works.
1. Talk about portraits drawn by Picasso, how he created the images using different perspectives and cubist shapes. Highlight the use of contrasting colors in his work.
2. Draw a face with a simple shape. Emphasize the use of irregular geometric shapes.
3. By having students studying themselves in the mirror first, then demonstrate how to draw a profile view of the face first. Later draw a frontal view next to it.
4. Prepare paint. Ann will choose 2 complementary colors from the color wheel(eg. yellow and purple)
5. To begin with, paint with one side of the face first, then work with another color for the other side of the face.
6. Apply patterns to the background and background.
- This project has an interesting outcome. Picasso said he tried to draw like a kid. So, I thought children should be able to relate to and be inspired by his drawings. However, what I discover is that Ann actually found them very “ugly” and she asked, “Can I make it a little prettier?”
- These innocent comments leave me with lots of afterthoughts. Some reports said that children are drawn to beautiful things by intuition, I have to admit Picasso's portraits are not pretty in an ordinary way. Some are quite distorted, so is this the right project for a 7 years old child? How to talk to young kids about the significance of Picasso and his work?
- Perhaps it takes time for a kid to understand and appreciate Picasso and other modern arts. What I hope is that exposing Ann to Picasso at an early age will open her up to modern art. It might speak to her one day (or never), like how it inspires me now.
- Ann resisted the use of “unnatural” colors for the skin. She thinks that people's skin to be pink/beige color. How to make her realize colors do not need to be objective and can be subjective as well? The key is to make her draw with what she feels, rather than just showing how the person looks.
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#09 Paper doll wardrobe
Aim: Develop persona and storytelling skills
Ask Anna to come up with a character, what is her name? What are her hobbies? How is her day? Try to imagine what does she do on weekend? What kind of clothes/accessories does she wear?
- At first, Ann thought she cannot reproduce the wardrobe by herself. I notice she often shows a lack of confidence before a project or drawing starts. She thinks the line is not perfect, the head is not in proportion…etc. I hope to relieve her stress by breaking down the projects into steps, in this way she can achieve them in the end. Also, just play and have fun!
-Ann is a natural storyteller, she completes the paper doll, the wardrobe, and a story with the paper doll!
-What makes me really happy is that in the video she said she had a happy day. She made it and enjoyed the art-making process after all!
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#08 Black paper pastel drawing
Colour, line drawing
To experience color contrast against black paper.
To understand analogous colors
Introduce line drawing
Introduce different techniques of pastel chalk
- Little dot(pointillism)
- Side stokes using the edge of a chalk
- Line drawing
- Choose 2–3 analogous colors or shades of the same color
- Start with a darker color, then add the other 2 shades
- I tried to introduce different possibilities of using chalk pastel. However, I noticed Ann is used to smudge and blend, making the colors rather dull. I tried to remind her but it takes a while to get her to change this habit. Perhaps showing her a chart will help her to visualize the different techniques and possibilities?
- I tried to get her to try other methods, but I think I might get too specific and controlling since I try to make her focus on simple line drawing only.
I noticed she wanted to fill up the shapes with pastel. Perhaps I should just let her feel the pressure of the chalk and enjoyed the pleasure of seeing how color becomes more vivid.
- I learn that teaching techniques are not a one-time thing. It takes time to learn and what I should do is to introduce the new medium slowly in every class.
- Pastel can be challenging and get very messy, how to minimize the mess?
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# 07 Blow paint a peacock!
Colour, pattern, shape
To encourage the use of colors, to introduce the wet on wet watercolor technique,
1.Show pictures of peacocks. Discuss colors and unusual features on peacocks.
2. Refer to radiating and symmetrical designs in nature
3. Draw the peacock
1. Set up colors for tail
2. Drop one color and blow paint it, make sure it forms a radiating shape from one point
3. Select another color, drop it on paper and blow paint. Repeat until finish. See how colors mix.
4. Add a drizzle of color
5. Add glitters, let it try
6. Cut out peacock body, crown
1. Ann was really engaged in blowing the paint at first, but it took energy and strength and both of us became breathless =-D. Perhaps work on a small surface next time.
2. When drawing a peacock, she was upset she did not get the right body shape at first. How to motivate her to keep trying and not be afraid to fail at the beginning? How to stop making things perfect right away? How to let her just have fun and enjoy at first?
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# 06 Make a princess paper doll!
Human body, shapes and movement
To encourage observation of human figures. To appreciate patterns, colors and textures through the lens of fashion design
1. Show Ann a mannequin that shows a human figure: Head, torso, hips, legs, feet, arms.
2. Break the figure down into major shapes such as circles and rectangles
3. Draw the figure with a pencil. Separate the arms and legs
4. Cut it out and add the pins to make the figure movable
5. Remove the pins and then paint the figure in flesh tint
6. Start designing the clothes, what kind of clothes the princess will wear? a dress? What kind of patterns (paper)? Shoes? Pick a belt?
7. Cut out the hair
1. Ann becomes frustrated when she does not draw the “perfect” oval face or the dress isn’t cut the right size…How to change this mindset?
2. It was difficult for her to grasp the overall size of a human figure first. But she learns quite quickly when drawing it the second time.
3. I notice her paper cutting skill improves compared to last time, perhaps due to the thicker paper? But I notice she learns to cut away the negative shape to get the positive shape she wants.
4. The best part is after making the paper doll, she came up with stories for the paper doll.
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# 05 Mountains
Concept of space and the use of overlap
- Teaching perspective is too complex and early for 6 years old, I just want to introduce the concept to overlap.
- How to suggest front, middle ground and background
- Show pictures of mountains. Point out the shapes of mountains and sense of place, such as calmness, silence, time and weather.
- Ask Ann to close her eyes and imagine a place with mountains. What does she see? What is the time, the weather?
Planning before drawing:
Picture format (Horizontal/vertical)
Where is the Horizon line? Lots of sky/less sky? Big mountain/small mountain;
1. Put patches of chalks on paper
2. Cut out the mountain with colored papers. Watch the shapes. Mountains in the background are more further away and therefore smaller
3. Draw some plants/ flowers in the front. They are the closest and the biggest. Try varying brush strokes and colors. Think about overlapping plants in nature. (practice plant leaves flowers first)
1. Cutting paper comes naturally to adults, however, I realize it is not easy for a child. It was challenging at first, how to turn paper as Ann cut? How to hold the scissors? It takes practice for Ann to cut the shapes out. Also, it might be better if the paper is thicker so she can hold better.
2. Ann is not used to the idea of overlapping objects, at first she avoids putting shapes on top of each other.
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# 04 Portrait of dad
- Let Ann become more aware of the shape, features (noses/eyes/mouth) and proportion of the human head.
- Tell a story about a character through images
1. Introduce human head and features proportion
2. Show ways to draw eyes, mouth, nose, hair and neck
3. Coloring the character, introduce cold and warm color concepts
4. Use soft pastel and starch for abstract background
5. After dry, draw things that her dad likes, such as food, sports, activities…etc in the background
Observations help Ann improve her drawing quickly. After looking at a real person's eyes, brows, nose and brows, she can draw with more details immediately.
Drawing noses are not easy for adults, it is a challenge for kids as well, how to position the nostrils? I notice she drew with preconceptions, such as the nose, neck and cheeks are drew in certain cartoon ways, the only way to improve her drawings are by looking at real objects/people. The question I have for myself is should I let the children draw from imagination? How to make her slow down and draw to record what she actually sees, rather than what she thought she sees?
One thing I notice is she always tries to make things perfect right away (I did that too) She feels upset when she cannot draw the lines for the lips perfectly. How can I help her change this mentality?
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# 03 Finger painting
- Continue color exploration
- Stimulate senses, “feel” the color density
- Make children aware of repeatable shapes/patterns form objects
- Introduce drawing faces and expressions
1. Show examples of objects created by fingers paints, eg trees, animals, flowers, faces with expressions
2. Show how circles of various sizes can be created by using thumbs and tips of the thumbs, experiment with weight. Use a black marker to draw the facial expressions.
3. Try fingerpaint more complex objects/ animals.
1. Invite Ann to think of an imaginary landscape, draw objects or things she sees there. This could be a farm, park, forest …etc.
2. Start with a horizontal line that defines the land. Then Ann should think of what she sees in the foreground or background. (Basic introduction of foreground and background relationship is given)
3. Paint and draw
- This lesson turns out to be a challenge for me instead. As a teacher, I find that I am not very good at handling messiness. I got nervous when things get out of control. I try to set rules and tell Ann what to do and what she should not do. Ann ends up feeling bored. She said “I am tired. I cannot do this and cannot do that…” I should learn to let them just have fun and not stepping in constantly.
- Getting Ann to position the thumb at an angle is a bit of a challenge. Her elbow strength is not as strong as adults. Stamping mirror shapes such as butterfly are not easy to her.
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# 02 Drawing parrots
- To introduce *simple color concepts, such as primary colors and to demonstrate how to mix secondary colors
- To encourage children to closely observe the shape, color and texture of an actual parrot.
- Introduce the 3 primary colors- red, blue and yellow
- Look at the parrot's pictures together, pay particular attention to the color found on the parrot as well as their shapes and characteristics. Ask the children to imagine that she is inside a forest, what types of leaves and plants she sees.
- Ann had a lot of fun mixing colors, she liked to touch the paint and mixed them with her fingers. She might have trouble picking up the paint with the brush, so painting with her hand seems more straightforward.
- Try to set up some time limit for picking colors
- Ann struggled with trying to draw the same object from different angles
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# 01 Drawing fishes and the sea world
Observing shapes, patterns and colors
- Make children aware of the main features of fish.
- Imagine and construct a world
- Play with colors
- See: Pictures of fishes and sea creatures
- Think: What will you see in the sea world?
- Draw: I start by explaining the basic component of a fish-eye, mouth, head, body, tail, fins and scales. Then I let Ann paste the googly eyes onto the paper. She draws one fish first then others by modifying their sizes, shapes and scales pattern, etc. She then applies colors to the fishes. Some corals are drawn with crayons. She finishes by applying a flat watercolor wash to the background.
- Ann is aware of separate lines and dots but has not used to draw connections between them yet. I tried to introduce the concept of joining the end of lines to define areas.
- Ann tends to draw on a small corner of the paper, instead of utilizing the entire paper. I try to inspire her to think of the entire space.
- No layering concept yet. I should start introducing the concept of overlapping to suggest depth.
- Mix of reality and imagination in the drawing. For instance, putting a crown on top of a fish head.