Responses & Ideas from Other Art Teachers

page 2 of the Portrait and Figure Drawing page....
Marvin Bartel, Ed.D.

2nd grader

First posted Jan. 12, 2009 author biography

Guest Contributors

A Manikin variation
Your lesson calls for a model to be wrapped in orange tape and then the students draw only the
tape. We are in a small private group lesson environment and not able to use a model at this point. I used a small (12") human manikin instead of a live person and had great success. The students were kind of mystified as to the intent of the exercise, but completed it with ease. Not all the stress and frustration like when they were trying to draw the figure alone. I wish I could get them to translate this view to drawing the figure all the time!

I just wanted to let you know that this lesson was very helpful and I will use it again!!

Shelly Gordon, March, 2007 ^^^
Art teacher, Glenville, NY

Art & Science variation
I wanted you to know that I turn to your web page on regular basis for encouragement and direction.

I am up late writing a plan for my High School Anatomy and Physiology class. In the Fall, I convinced the science teacher to let me help her with this class, I take the students once a month for life drawing "workshops" in the art room. Six of the 20 students are taking the course for Art Credit as well as Science credit. So far, I have tried to keep it "not to scary" for the not-so-artsy part of the class.
First Semester they drew bones and trees and their own hands, the hands and arms of classmates, copied or traced "real" medical drawings for practice, made a poster or book on a medical illustrator, did the drying-peppers-over-three-weeks exercise (to compare to human skin over time, I showed them my wrinkled hands to compare to their smooth hands) and a color theory project making skin tones with tempera paint. So, far, the whole class has made terrific strides and all have grown "in wisdom and strength" where drawing is concerned :-)

Tomorrow, I plan to assign a long-term self -portrait project that is (naturally) very open-ended. With a deadline of by spring break.  But, I also planned to help them overcome their fears of drawing by doing some drawing exercises tomorrow.

I am going to use your taped model plan to help them work on finding the form as we draw a human figure. I will let you know how it goes.

June Covington, January, 2009 ^^^
Art Instructor, The Canterbury Episcopal School, DeSoto,Texas

Editor's note on other types of science and art connections: 
making and other kinetic sculpture projects involve weight, wind forces, friction, measurements, momentum, inertia, and other science and math concepts and terms. Science and art are learned if the right kinds of questions are used.
A four minute video showing Alexander Calder and his Circus.

Science is learned when art students learn how experimentation helps them discover something that the teacher does NOT tell them or show them.  I think that kids grow in both artistic and scientific thinking habits when they are taught how to make their own discoveries instead of being shown how to do things. I like to start with hands-on experiments and practice--not with examples and teaching demonstrations.
Boston Museum of Science Inventor's page.

Why do these lessons work?  by Marvin Bartel

Figure and Portrait drawing as practice makes observation easier--less intimidating and more fun. Buggy horses wear "blinkers" to reduce anxiety caused by distractions. Our blinder keeps our eyes on the subject and our anxiety off of the drawing. The ribbon is less easily judged as right or wrong, also reducing anxiety and fear of failure. 

Bartel photo

Drawing this well "all the time" probably takes a large number of practice sessions using several different approaches. Since fear of failure trips us up, perhaps alternating sessions with and without the blinder may also build confidence. When students make other drawings, it may help for teachers to ask students if they like to remember how they drew the same thing during another lesson. In a class, students can be encouraged to pose for each other for a few minutes to help a peer figure out how to draw something. I ask them to remember to spend more time looking at the model so the hand is guided by the model -- not the image stored in the brain from childhood. Blind contour observation practice and tutoring that begins in first grade provide children the secrets of how to learn to draw on their own without becoming dependent on copying.  Observation practice is likely to help make their other drawings easier, different, and possibly better.  Open questions help students learn to think about their work. It is a way we can bring their passive knowledge into awareness.  It is a gentle way to bring additional observations into their awareness.

I was once working with a 44 month old girl who was drawing a picture of a girl from her imagination. As she drew the fingers, I asked her, "Do you like to count the fingers when you draw them?" She immediately started associating what she already knew about counting and figured out how many fingers to draw. My tutoring question helped her transfer learning and she construct her own knowledge, not because I demanded it, but by showing interest and asking her a question I made it totally optional for her. I believe transfer of learning is more likely if we use questions that help children practice, realize, and remember what they are learning.

When working with the same 44 month old girl, I asked other questions such as, "Does the zebra like to look at things?" (she added eyes), "What does your elephant like to eat?" (she added peanuts and people feeding the elephant). I soon discovered that she was asking herself similar questions as she worked.  In this way, she was copying my way of thinking, but did not copying anything that I drew for her (I did not draw for her. I only asked awareness questions as she worked).  By copying my thinking, students increase their own awareness and their drawings become more interesting and complex. While this is fun to see in their work, the real benefit is what happens in their brains as their thinking becomes more complex. When we tutor drawing with awareness questions rather than with drawings to copy, we are also tutoring thinking habits and nurturing creativity neurons.

During an observation drawing lesson, I often ask some questions when I notice that students are not noticing important details.  For example, I might ask, "Do you notice any places where the top edge has dips or bumps?" By using awareness questions, I can avoid being overtly critical and I can give the students more autonomy than if I present everything as instructions. In my observations, the best artists are those who have made their own inventions, choices, and refinements.  In the end, I want my students to have learned to habitually ask their own questions, create their own assignments, and develop their own solutions.  ---- Marvin Bartel - CONTACT

The Critique Process is part of every good art lesson. A good assignment is great, but a good critique can be an even better way to learn art.

Include a Rubric for this lesson. Testing in Drawing class. Turning in Grades in Art. ------------  back to top of article

2nd grade

ABOVE: Modeling and drawing Invisible Figure Drawing (cross-contour drawing) where only the orange ribbon is drawn. Blinder Buddy is used to hide paper while drawing.

SAFETY NOTE: Use only the very thin plastic ribbon that can break very easily. Use only with adult supervision. Only fasten it with pieces of tape. Do not tie knots.

  1. Blinder Buddy(TM) drawing helper practice
    Use Blinder Buddy helper on pencil so the drawing is not seen while edges (contour) of figure are drawn. Only look under the drawing helper at when starting a new line.

    Blinder Buddy (TM) property of Dragonfly Innovations Inc (TM)
high school student

Invisible Figure Drawing using Blinder Buddy (TM)
drawing helper to conceal paper during drawing.

back to top of article ^^^



An Invisible Figure Drawing
(blind cross contour) by a 4th grade student.

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Teaching The Secrets of Generating Art Ideas: An Inside Out Art Curriculum
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All rights reserved.  This page © Marvin Bartel, Emeritus Professor of Art, Adjunct in Art Education, Goshen College. The letters from teachers are © by the writers.  They are published here by permission. Teachers many make a single copy for their personal use so long as this copyright notice and dates are included. Scholarly quotations from this site are permitted with proper attribution. You may make a link to this site. If desiring a link exchange, link exchanges are only considered for sites that already have a working link to this site. For permission to make copies or handouts of this page, contact author
Last updated January 12, 2009


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