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Action Figures.

For fourth-grade students, drawing the human figure seems a welcome exercise. When challenged with capturing movement and proportion, they are ready for action.


* Students acquire basic skills necessary for drawing the human figure in action.

* Students are introduced to the concept of foreshortening.

* Students become familiar with proportions of the human body.

* Students acquire a basic awareness of joints and how they bend.

* Students learn art vocabulary words: figure, portrait, overlap, foreshortening, guidelines.


First, students decide who will be the subject of the drawing. I have two bins of collected visual materials, one labeled "Sports" and the other "Heroes." Students look through both bins until they find a subject that appeals to them.

Discuss the difference between figure drawings and portraits, comparing examples of both head-to-toe figure drawings and head and shoulder views of portraits.

Next, demonstrate how to begin a figure drawing by starting one as students watch, emphasizing that, at first, they should ignore details and look for basic shapes--an oval for the head, a rectangle for the neck, a larger rectangle for the torso, etc. Also, stress that at this point they should keep their pencil lines light and sketchy, since they may want to modify these shapes later. In other words, they are just guidelines.

To further emphasize the concepts introduced thus far, show students a 12" (31 cm) artist's mannequin. Encourage them to think of the arms and legs as straight shapes that have to bend at the joints. Discourage "elbow-macaroni elbows" that curve in ways real arms never could.

Once the figure is satisfactorily sketched, have students begin to look for such details as facial features, uniform or clothing particulars, and backgrounds. Drawings are colored with the media of their choice: colored pencil, marker, or crayons.


Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

Andrew Wales is an art teacher in Athens, Pennsylvania.
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Author:Wales, Andrew
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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