Sunday, January 20, 2013

Drawing from Observation Using Dots

The following article was written by Michaeline Kohler, a KAEA Professional Development Grant Recipient. KAEA offers up to 5 Professional Development Grants to members each year, due on November 20th. Read more at, you could be our next recipient!

Drawing from Observation Using Dots
Michaeline Kohler
Cheney Middle School
Cheney, Kansas

This past summer I had the opportunity to attend a 3-day workshop in Sisters, Oregon with Annie Painter.  Annie’s web site,, had been a source of inspiration for me. Her strong work in color and design was just what I needed to give my students an extra boost.  I learned and have tried a lot of her techniques in my classroom, but for this article I am going to focus on using dots to draw and using paint chips for color.
 My 6th graders were intrigued when I told them their next art day would be making a dot to dot picture.  Several of them said they loved dot to dot.  For fun, I searched the internet and found a shell dot to dot that I handed them as they walked in the door.  When completed, I told them that was their clue for their assignment.  On the tables, I also had displays of beautiful shells that I borrowed from the science department. 
I demonstrated the observational drawing of looking at the object and placing a dot where a distinctive part of the shell was.  This encourages the students to look closely and to draw what is really there, not just what they think a shell looks like. They connected their dots and then drew lines for the inside shapes and textures. Most agreed the drawing was easier than they thought and the drawing more realistic.
"Paint Chip" Palette
One of Ms. Painter’s techniques for painting is to make “paint chips” using tempera paint.  I had students who finished an assignment early paint 12X18 sheets of drawing paper with tempera paint.  The paint is layered on thickly and one color per sheet.  We laid them aside to dry overnight.  After cutting the sheets into 3X4” rectangles, the colors were separated into warm and cool piles. Students were allowed to choose 3 cool and 1 warm color for an accent or vice versa. Students stapled their color choices on an inexpensive paper plate.
Now the fun begins! The students had a good drawing and paint chips.  Using just clear water and brushes, they rubbed the color off the paint chips and painted their shells.  The results were very transparent and resembled watercolor.  If a student was not finished at the end of the class period, they wrote their name on the paper plate palette and the paint was rewetted the next day. The cleanup was so easy; I know this technique would be great for my Kindergarten classes also.

We had a lesson in drawing from observation, warm and cool colors and techniques of painting in a short time with great results. I did have my students cut out their shells and matt or mount them on colored construction paper.  The display was bright and cheerful in the hall. Sometimes just seeing or hearing about a different idea can be refreshing for us and for our students.

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