Directed Drawing and Watercolors: Early Lessons in Being a First Grade Artist

Last year I wrote a story about my journey to understanding how and why directed drawing would be a good thing in the classroom.  This year, I was even more dedicated to showing kiddos from the beginning how EVERYONE is an artist, as well as how important it is them know how to put their thinking into pictures.  I decided that I’d start from the earliest days with this, and so we learned how to draw a boy and a girl.

I found a series of videos where an artist works with kids and teaches them how to draw things.  In this one, he draws a boy and a girl and talks through variations you might do to make them different the next time you draw them.  Here’s the video if you wanted to check it out:

As we watched the video, I drew the figures up on the board in great big form, and first graders tried it out on their smaller paper.  They only had to do one or the other, but a couple took the challenge of drawing both the boy and the girl!

We stopped the video along the way to rewatch a step, or to answer questions.  We erased, encouraged and enabled ourselves to not be perfect the first time we attempted this feat.  We talked about how it’s true that this might be hard now, but that the next time we try it (to draw a kid or something else), it’ll be even easier since we’ve done it before.  I heard many kids say how they were impressed by their first tries and also how happy they were at what their pictures looked like.

Another important thing I wanted kids to know how to do from the early days (because it’s a huge part of learning in our classroom) is to paint with watercolors.

So the next step, after we drew our kids was to learn how to paint them.

We talked about how to get water and carefully walk with it to our table (this is much harder than it might seem! 🙂 ), how much water to use to make the colors look richer or more transparent, as well as the order in which to paint so that the colors don’t run (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, brown and then black).  We also learned that when you make a painting, the whole paper has to be covered (with details and background). Then we tried it out for ourselves.

One thing I LOVE about doing whole-class learning like this, is that even though we’re all doing the same thing, we are all doing it in different ways.  And I love how often a kiddo will do or say something that we can share, as it might be helpful to everyone at some point.  This happened as I walked by and saw Finley doing this with his painting:

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We shared how he outlined the figure with the background color to help make sure it was crisp and clear.  Lots of kids tried it out, too!  And wow–what a great thing to learn today and use for the whole year.  And beyond!

After we were painted, we already had some pretty great results. 🙂

But we weren’t done yet!  Last step was to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie and sign our work!

And so after all of that HARD WORK, we had a pretty fantastic painting and some skills we can learn for the whole year and beyond.  Check them out!

WOW!!  What incredible work, first graders!  🙂

 

Learning to Draw From an Expert

Remember when Pacifique was here last year and we were SO EXCITED?!  And the year before when we first met them?   Well…since then we’ve developed quite a close relationship with the NIYO Cultural Centre and are lucky to be able to learn from these amazingly talented artists often.  This time Pacifique brought some new friends–Patrick and Figy.  Last time we focused primarily on music and dance, but this time Figy has been able to share his painting talents with us.  WE WERE EXCITED!

First, he did a little bit of pre-planning and basics instruction at the easel.  Everyone really wanted him to start by drawing tigers and lions, but Figy helped us understand that we have to start with simple and THEN we can stretch out and do some harder things.  We were going to start with butterflies.  Just like the lesson Ms. Holzmueller had done with us the previous week, he showed us how butterflies are made of shapes we already know, like ovals.  Easy peasy!

Once we had sketched our butterflies, we gathered for a painting lesson.  Figy is a master with watercolors and had much to teach us.  I was so excited to learn a tip that I had never learned: before you start painting, you “paint” the paper with water!  This helps the paint then “float” around on the water.  SO BEAUTIFUL!

After this next part of the lesson, we tried out hands at adding color to our own creations.

We weren’t finished yet, though!  We would leave them to dry overnight, and then trace the details on top of our paint with permanent marker.  WOW–what a great combination!  Check out Figy’s example he made for us:

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AND THEN (as if it hadn’t already been an amazing time together!), he called kiddos to the rug as they finished painting, telling them he had a secret to tell them.  He quickly had a line forming in front of him as he whispered quietly in each kiddo’s ear.  No one except that kiddo had any idea what he was talking about!

We soon found out that was he was talking to each kiddo about was what other animal they might like him to draw and quickly a pretty impressive list started to form on the easel paper.  And then he started drawing them for us!  Right before our eyes they begin to appear on the paper, like a colorful 2D zoo!

Did you notice what started to happen as he added animals to the paper?  Kiddos were so inspired that a whole new drawing lesson ensued and everyone was trying them out, too! Love it when that happens.  You don’t even have to invite them or suggest that they do it–just showing them is all the invitation that need! So organic. 🙂

So then Friday when we came back, we took our turn with the Sharpies and finished our paintings.  Aren’t they beautiful??

We were so inspired and thankful to Figy for sharing his talents with us!  We have even started another watercolor painting project in math that we’ll finish this coming week, too.  Stay tuned for updates on how we transfer this learning to another situation! 🙂