horizontal or curved? Where do you
see forms overlapping? Which are
symmetrical?” Point out that closer
objects will be drawn lower on the
Warm up and move on. Using lines,
circles and ovals, demonstrate how
to plot the basic location of objects
on paper. Analyze the geometric
shapes and proportion within each
item and begin adding volume with
a loose sketch line. Show how one
can easily draw a symmetrical object
by drawing a vertical line (I called it
the object’s spinal chord) and working both sides of the object simultaneously. Have students do a few
short, timed drawings demonstrating
the basics just shown them. As they
walk to their next still life, mention
that the next one will seem easier.
Choose one and stick with it. After
reviewing the previous day’s work,
have students choose which still life
they want for their final drawing
and begin an accurate and detailed
contour line drawing. Give specific
feedback for improvement, but
avoid drawing on student’s work.
When complete, have students
transfer their line drawings to a
toned paper for their final rendering
with charcoal pencils. We worked
approximately 9 x 12" ( 23 x 30 cm)
or slightly larger.
Off with the lights, on with the
lamps and start adding value. After
illuminating the still lifes, ask more
questions: “Where do you see the
brightest highlights or reflections?
The lightest colors?” Have students
add white charcoal to those areas.
Later, switch over to the black
charcoal pencils and add the darker
values. Work back and forth until
chiaroscuro is demonstrated. If a
student has a hard time discerning
which value to use, ask “Is the value
lighter or darker than the one next
to it?” Add small accent lines to
Keep it clean. Charcoal pencils can
be messy. Encourage students to
place scrap paper under their hand
to prevent smudging and to clean up
the negative space frequently with a
Keep it short. It took four, eighty-six minute classes to complete this
unit. Two classes were devoted to
vocabulary, creating value scales,
timed practice, contour line drawing
and transferring. Two were devoted
to adding value.
Added bonus. Put up a display
reflecting the full range of still-life compositions and, as an added
bonus, mat drawings using low-cost,
pre-cut mats for a professional look.
Mary Coy teaches art at Spry Middle
School in Webster, NY and is a contributing editor for SchoolArts.
Students intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and
processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.