Saturday, June 23, 2012

Classical Conversations Fine Arts: Drawing

Thanks to Classical Conversations, I am slowly-but-surely learning how to draw.  This is a big feat for someone who has only drawn free-body diagrams (physics) and stick figures (not physics).

So, not being an expert artist, I will give you what has worked best for me, a beginner, in drawing.  

For lesson plans that correlate to Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, go to this site. It includes a list of all photocopies you'll need to make for an entire 25-lesson drawing course based on this book.

Donna Young also provides many printables that correlate with Drawing with Children.  These are quick, 5-10 minute activities (33 five-elements-of-shape practice lessons, 19 mirror image lessons) that can be used in the CC classroom or at home.

If you'd like to practice drawing but have no background in art, the Art for Kids website has tons of drawing tutorials.  You can also try What to Draw and How to Draw It by E. G. Lutz, which provides step-by-step instructions on drawing a number of pictures, including lighthouses, birds (turkeys, chickens, roosters, cranes), and farm animals.  

For a storybook about drawing, download Willie's First Drawing Lessons by A Lady, which introduces elements of drawing using nature to describe the straight lines, curved lines, and angles that we see all around us.

Download a copy of Perspective Made Easy by Ernest Norling. (If you have trouble with this link, you can also download it on 4shared.)  This book contains so much useful information and makes perspective even doable for me!  No more stick figures!  (Or at least the stick figures will be smaller as we approach the vanishing point....)  For specific tutorials on perspective, visit Wetcanvas and Drawspace.

For some great ideas on painting and craft projects, you can visit that artist woman. She provides a great lesson on perspective here.  It is a great encouragement to see her work, which she posts step-by-step for those of us who are not so art-inclined. 

Another great place for art ideas is Art Projects for Kids.  Last year, Stephen completed this 1-point perspective activity at home as I was trying to figure out what would be appropriate for our Journeyman class. You may also opt to use instructions from Dawn's Brain.

Stephen's finished masterpiece

We also use the Draw Write Now books 2, 3, and 5 and Draw and Write Through History (which are NOT free).  Click here to see the Table of Contents for each Draw Write Now book and click here to see free samples, including one on theTranscontinental Railroad Draw and Write Through History includes more advanced drawings and copywork.  If you've seen Stephen's Titanic drawing, that was done using instructions in the  Draw and Write Through History book.

Lesson Plans for Drawing 

These ideas may be used by the tutor in a CC community setting, or they may be used by parents to encourage extra drawing at home. Many of the ideas in this post were originated by CC Connected users. If you have a CC Connected membership, filter the file sharing to Fine Arts, and you will discover so many great ideas.  If it had not been for these creative people, I would not have survived GeoDrawing camp.  So... if you are one of those CC Connected users, thank you.  You have been such a blessing to me.

The overall resource for drawing instruction in Classical Conversations is Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes.  

During Geodrawing Camp, we created sketch books (each made with 7-8 pieces of 8.5" x 14" paper, folded into a booklet and stapled at the spine) where the students drew many of their drawings. 

Each instructional time in drawing started with a story.  The children LOVED these books!  I think it was one of their favorite parts about Geodrawing camp.  (My children love these books and read them over and over again!)

Week 1:  Five Elements of Shape

"Ish" drawings
Introduction to Drawing:

This book encourages us to let go of perfectionism and helps us to realize that, as budding artists, we may make sketches that do not look exactly like we intend.   It gives us the freedom to draw without getting frustrated every time it does not turn out as expected.  "It may not look like a house, but it's house-ish." (I cannot describe how lighthearted the atmosphere became, even with the perfectionists in our group.)

Draw a 5 elements of shape chart and/or color-code the 5 elements of shape in your name:

Practice drawing 5-elements-of-shape designs using Donna Young's practice worksheets.  

Another great book for introduction to drawing is: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis 
This short, simple book is full of ideas for creating drawings, starting with just a box (which we keep discovering is not a box.)

An instructor-led activity:  Instructions for drawing Not-a-Box Man are in What to Draw and How to Draw It by E.G. Lutz:

 Children are then free to draw as many Not-a-Boxes as they'd like.

Week 2:  Mirror Images

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer provides the opportunity for children to see how images are reflected (as well as how verse can be mirrored and punctuated differently for a totally different meaning).

Fold a sheet of paper in half. Cut out shapes as you would with a simple paper snowflake.  Try to guess what the mirror image will look like and then open it!

Allow children to come to the whiteboard to finish a mirror image.  Tutor/Parent can just keep adding another element each time.

Mirror images on the whiteboard.
Sketch Book Activity (Mirror Image):  Show children how to draw a Barn (Free Sample from Draw Write Now book.)  Several other drawings from Draw Write Now books are mirror images:  Owl, Pumpkin, Grapes, Trees are all from Draw Write Now Book 2.  And, again, several mirror images are available from What to Draw and How to Draw It by E.G. Lutz:

And then you can also complete  some mirror image practice using Donna Young Mirror Image Practice Sheets:

Week 3:  : Upside Down Images

The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst encourages children to use their imagination in looking at each letter of the alphabet sideways and upside down.

Why upside down drawing?  Familiar things do not look the same upside down. The purpose of upside-down drawing is to force your left (thinking) side of the brain to give up identifying what you draw.  Visit AllAboutDrawings to read about the benefits of drawing upside down.  Also view this slideshow about upside-down drawing.

Instructor-led Sketch Book activity:  Draw a an image upside down.  Example:   You can do this with any image.  The goal is to reproduce the drawing by focusing on the elements of shape instead of what we perceive the image to be.  You can use something like these simple instructions on drawing a whale, only you would only provide them students with the finished drawing to place upside down in front of them.  {The point here is NOT to draw the image rightside up but to replicate exactly what the upside down image looks like in front of them. } You can print the whale instructions (for your own reference), turn the page upside down, and model for the students how to draw the image upside down.  (This would work best on a clipboard or a small dry-erase board that you could flip to show the finished work.) 

Other ideas:  Allow children to draw their name or simple designs (smiley face, heart, etc.) on a scratch sheet of paper.  Turn the page upside down and replicate it by drawing it upside down, having children concentrate on the way it actually looks instead of how they think it should look.

Week 4:  Abstract Art

Using broad- and fine-tipped markers, have students follow random instructions:
  1. Using a fine-tipped, draw a border.
  2. Using a broad-tipped marker, draw three dots.
  3. Using a fine-tipped marker, draw three lines that touch the borders.
  4. Using a broad-tipped marker, draw three curvy lines that connect a dot to a border.
  5. Using a fine-tipped marker, draw three circles of different sizes.
Sketch Book:  Follow Directions

Abstract Name:  Write the first letter of your name.  Turn the page 90 degrees and write the second letter of your name.  Turn the page 90 degrees and write the third letter of your name... and so on.  Then color in with markers, switching colors every time you come to a line.
Abstract Name:  Stephen
Repetition and Reversal using this simple grid.

Repetition and Reversal

Week 5:  Perspective 

Short discussion on 2D vs. 3D.
Read Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, pointing out the use of perspective throughout (relative size and position - if you'r trying to draw something farther away, you make it smaller).

Sketch Book Activity:  Drawing a country road: introducing 1-point perspective, horizon line and vanishing point; relative size and position.  For younger students, you can print out a page that already has dashed lines they can trace for the horizon line, vanishing point, and lines for the road.  Then print out different-sized trees (or other simple drawings) and allow them to cut and paste them onto the page according to their relative size and position. 

Sketch Book Activity:  Draw two buildings across from each other.

Visit Dawn's Brain for step-by-step perspective exercises

Download this Perspective Activity Page.  Fold in half so that the student can see the one-point perspective guidelines underneath.  Trace the outer-most rectangle and another rectangle closer towards the middle.  Use the guidelines to add photos or windows on the side walls and a tile floor.  Then they can unfold the page and draw a door and window on the far side of the room.  This sheet may be used for any drawing you wish to show in one-point perspective (train tracks, long country road, etc.)

This idea was taken from a site explaining the  One-point Perspective Grid.  Also visit this step-by-step tutorial of drawing a one-point perspective country road.

Week 6:  Final Project 

The final picture book:  Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson  Point out use of perspective, five elements of shape, etc.

Final Project:  Parrot from What to Draw and How to Draw It and birds from Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes

Great tie-ins to Cycle 1:
Free Tiger Lesson from Draw Write Now

Other Ideas:
Other picture books:

Fine Arts Resources
Drawing:  Weeks 1-6
What to Draw and How to Draw It by E. G. Lutz provides step-by-step instructions for drawing
Week 1
Willie's First Drawing Lessons by A Lady, an amusing story about the elements of shape
Week 2
Week 5
Perspective Made Easy by Ernest Norling. (Also downloadable on 4shared.) 
3D Drawing Group Game (for Masters)
Week 6


  1. Thank you so much for putting all of this together! We began homeschooling just a few months ago, and we have joined CC for the fall. I'm very much looking forward to it. Your resources will be a great help!

    Gig 'em!

    Valerie '98

  2. What an awesome post - thank you! We are aspiring artists here and I am woefully inadequate at teaching drawing so I'm learning along with my kids. This is so helpful.

  3. Thanks for the book lists. This has motivated me to start my library list going again. I love all the suggestions for the books as it helps me to have ideas to look for each week. Our library lets me save lists of books by week and so I can reserve all these by the week we are working on it!

  4. This is an INCREDIBLY helpful post. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Nice to see more articles about upside-down

    Today we are finding artists everywhere
    mimicking the topsy-turvy style of American Artist L. R. Emerson II who started
    an international movement involving upside-down, multi-directional art. Emerson
    is credited with inventing Upside-Down Art.

    Please visit to see
    the fantastic work of internationally known American artist L. R. Emerson II.
    Emerson is the leading artist of the Upside-Down Artist movement having created
    and shared thirty years of artmaking success and documented invention regarding
    multi-directional design and compositional arrangement.

    Due to Emerson’s published research and
    exploration Art Education texts are having to be re-written to include
    Emerson’s compositional variant; upside-down, multi-directional composition has
    been validated and stands alone as a worthy from of composing subjects.

    Emerson’s work has been presented to more
    than 500 galleries in the U.S.A. and to over 50 major museums across the

    His pioneering effort, enduring over three
    decades to break the glass ceiling of conventional composition sets L. R.
    Emerson II apart from followers of the Upside-Down movement.

    L. R. Emerson II may very well be the
    Thomas Edison of artmaking. More information documenting Emerson’s thirty-five
    unique methods for creating upside down art can be found in the book The Purple
    Tree; Art in a Boundless Age, 2009

    Mary Arkin

  6. This is so helpful, thank you!

  7. Thanks so much for posting these lesson plans! You have saved me lots and lots of time as I prepare for our co-op's art class this fall!!!

  8. I am confused why all the art resources are the same for all 3 cycles? Do you just do the same thing every year?

  9. The first 12 weeks of Classical Conversations are the same for Fine Arts (first six weeks= drawing; Second six weeks = tin whistle & music theory). We only change what we do for second semester when we study Great Artists and Orchestra & Composers. You can refer to the Foundations Guide 4th Edition appendix for more details. Please let me know if you have other questions!

    Brandy Ferrell
    Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood