Teaching Shapes and Forms Part 2

Image 19 copyLast week I shared how I introduce middle school students to the concepts of shape, form, two-dimension, three-dimension, and depth. After presenting that basic information I wanted them to draw a still life of some blocks of wood, styrofoam balls, PVC pipe, and dowel sticks.

Very few of them in middle school are ready to grasp the concepts of one-point perspective; however, most of them have developed a keen eye for seeing when something looks “weird.” As a result of being able to see when something is off but not quite ready to think in the abstracts necessary to fix it, many middle school students decide that they “just aren’t any good at art.”

To assure success drawing a realistic still life, I designed this puzzle piece approach. I numbered each of the shapes that make up the forms of a still life, cut them apart and rearranged them on a piece of paper to create puzzle pieces. I then copied enough of them on to white card stock to make a set for each student. After cutting each set apart, I put them into zip lock bags.

Shapes to Forms Still Life copy

As the students come into class they pick up a bag of puzzle pieces, a piece of black card stock, and a piece of drawing paper. I have them arrange all the puzzle pieces on the black paper so that the numbers are right side up, but they are not to assemble the pieces.

I use the master drawing that appears at the top to show them where we are going with this project and then tell them to draw a horizontal line in the top half of the drawing paper. I ask them what that line represents and they usually identify it as the table. I then ask where on the table to get them to understand that it is the back edge of the table; therefore, what we draw must be on the surface of the table top which is below the line.

After reviewing what I covered in my last post; i.e., things further away will be higher on the page and overlapped, it is time to begin drawing. We put piece #1 on the paper anywhere the student chooses and trace around it. We put piece #2 on top of #1 fitting the edges together and trace it. We add #3 to the side being careful the number is not sideways. As we trace each piece into place I emphasize that each piece is a flat, two-dimensional shape, but when the three pieces are put together, we have created the optical illusion of a three-dimensional form. If the box has overlapped the back edge of the table, we erase the part that should now be hidden.

It is now time to make some decisions about the PVC pipe (cylinder). Is it going to be closer than the block or further away? If it is closer it must be lower on the page and overlap the block. If it is further away it will be higher than the block and the block will overlap the cylinder. Since the cylinder is an open form it has a double ellipse for its top. Piece 5 and 6 create the rim of the opening. We continue adding forms depending on time constraints.

This project allows each student to feel creative satisfaction because they have chosen where and how to arrange each piece, but it still offers lots of guidance and structure to assure success.

Next week I’ll share with you some visual aides I use to help middle school students develop an awareness of good composition and the spiritual significance that I incorporate.

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