In the first lesson, the students observed the shapes, patterns and colors of these beautiful, exotic specimens. Then, each student completed a crayon drawing that reproduced one of the butterflies as exactly as possible. This assignment emphasized careful, scientific observation. To assure attention to detail, I told the students to "look like a scientist through a make-believe magnifying glass" and enlarge their butterfly to fill an 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm! sheet of paper.
Shapes, Patterns, Colors
The following week's discussion focused on the shapes, patterns and colors the students discovered while observing the specimens. I asked the students to invent a butterfly and to keep these concepts in mind while drawing. I suggested that they paint the butterfly's body in the center of the paper using any color and then fill each side of the paper with interesting wing shapes.
We had observed from the specimens that butterflies have four wings. The students worked hard on symmetry, a concept discussed while examining the specimens.
Each student completed an 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm) tempera painting. Intricate wing shapes, interesting patterns and unusual color combinations appeared in their finished paintings.
During the final week of this project, we talked about all the places where they had experienced seeing butterflies. Gardens, meadows, the noses of cats, dogs and bunnies, at the school playground, on a friend's shoulder and near a pond were some of the locations brought to mind.
Using Life Experience as a Guide
I asked the students to paint environments for their butterflies. Some environments were imaginary; others were real places remembered fondly. The paintings represented careful thought about making suitable places for their invented butterflies using life experience as a guide.
The three lessons, one emphasizing observation, one emphasizing pure imagination, and one relying on memory and experience produced magnificent results. The students cut out their butterflies and attached them to the environments. These artworks were exhibited in the lobby greeting parents, teachers and students with an impressive display of symmetrical shapes, patterns and colors.
Carol Borelli is an art teacher at New Canaan Country School in New Canaan, Connecticut.