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Contour, color and cowboys too!

My seventh grade art students at Strack Intermediate School begin the school year with a short unit centered around the principles and elements of design. While I am teaching this material, I stress that all of our projects throughout the year will utilize their knowledge of this important information. After successfully completing a series of mini-lessons centering around the elements and principles, the students transfer their new knowledge to their first drawing project with great enthusiasm.

Students do their preliminary work on 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm) newsprint paper. They begin by drawing contours of simple cowboy and Native-American subjects. After several days of practice, I ask for volunteers to dress as cowboys and Native Americans--every hand in the class is raised. To my students' delight, their drawings have improved with each approach. They save their very best drawings, and I give them 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm) white drawing paper on which to create a pleasing composition with their contour drawings. They transfer their compositions onto the white drawing paper by placing their contour drawings, which have been drawn with black marker, underneath the white drawing paper. The students first redraw their contours with pencil, then finish their compositions with marker. At this point, I ask them which principles and elements are most obvious. They readily recognize unity, balance, line, shape and movement.

Since it is my intention to keep my students' excitement escalating as we complete the various steps of this project, I use Native-American background music while I introduce the second part of this project. We study slides of Native-American designs and critique them using our knowledge of the principles and elements of design. I supply each student with several 3/4 x 24" (2 x 61 cm) strips of paper, a ruler and a green light for creativity. They are to create their own designs on these pieces of paper. After completing several strips, I have the students select their best design, and darken all the lines with a black marker. Working with their large contour compositions, the students clip the strip underneath their artwork. I instruct them to fill in only the negative space of their paper with the design. Starting at the top of the paper and holding their design either vertically or horizontally, they trace one row at a time. It didn't take long for the students to create different ways of placing the design strip onto their papers. Several of them created borders with their designs, and several rotated their design strips to create a repeating, alternating pattern.

As the students transferred their designs, they were excited to see the continuous design they were able to create with their strips. They were anxious to add color to their black-and-white compositions. We tested different color combinations with colored pencils on the strips. The best results were achieved by limiting the palette to three colors. They were permitted to use tints and shades of the colors selected, and some of them experimented with values of color. Once the color was added to their contour compositions, they were pleased with the beautiful compositions they had created.

After a final critique of our projects, it was evident to me that my students could apply line, shape, color, space, unity and value to create a pleasing artwork. The students and I were pleased with their new understanding of these elements and principles, as well as how beautifully their contour drawing projects had turned out. I knew that with the knowledge they had demonstrated to me through this art project, this was going to be a terrific year.
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Title Annotation:drawing
Author:Pichini, Cecelia D.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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