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Stuffed Animal Still Life.

Everyone loves stuffed animals. We can never get enough of those cute and cuddly make-believe creatures. What could be more enjoyable for second graders than learning to depict them? These furry animals, borrowed from the media center, turned out to be an excellent subject for a drawing lesson that emphasized shape, color, and texture.

Art History Link

I displayed examples of animals in art beginning with cave paintings. We looked at the cave paintings and felt the power of the animals and the awe the painter had for that power. There was a gorgeous simplicity in the portrayals. We discussed some of the reasons why the cave dwellers might have been moved to depict the animals they saw.

Next we looked at Albrecht Durer's Rabbit which illustrated minute details that could only be seen by closely inspecting the fur and the rabbit's shape. We also discussed Eugene Delacroix's style. The way he abstracted the surface of the horse proved to be a turning point from traditional painting to modern. He used loose strokes to represent the horse's hair not unlike what we were about to attempt.

Getting Focused

We began our lesson by employing a simple relaxation technique used in yoga to help focus attention. I showed students how to relax by asking them to rub their hands together to create friction. Once their hands were warmed I asked them to gently place the palm of their hand over their closed eyes and relax. We repeated this several times. The class was ready to look at the largest animal figure first (the penguin) and visualize placing it on the drawing paper.

Drawing with Shapes

I took a step-by-step approach to drawing so the class was not overwhelmed by the still life before them. I showed them how to break down each animal into simple shapes. They took it slowly in our relaxed atmosphere and felt free to experiment with their drawings.

The students were very serious about portraying the animals accurately. They maintained their high interest level throughout the project. The more simple shapes the students drew, the more successful they were in portraying the animals.

A simple poster showing samples of textures created by a variety of line helped the students experiment in choosing the most suitable texture for the animal's fur, feathers or hair.

The expressions of the stuffed animal faces and the sophistication in capturing the essence of the animals gave me a thrill. The drawings proved to me that the students were really looking at the subjects and accurately conveying what they saw. They used crayons to add contrast, rhythm, and color. They contrasted the neutral color of the animals with a strong background color.

A Special Gift

Mother's Day was fast approaching and although I rarely try to coordinate holidays with the ending of an art project, this one happened to coincide just right. Many mothers made sure to tell me what a great gift they had received in that special animal drawing--especially because it was created by their children.

Inclusion: Stencils help the student outline and fill in an animal form. A pencil outline of a animal form could be drawn beforehand as a guide for the student to trace over.

Extensions: This still life begs to have a story written about it. Such questions to be answered are: Why were these three creatures together? What did they eat? Where did they live? A scientific study of the real animals would also broaden knowledge.


Students explore and understand prospective content for works of art.

Bonnie Brasic Baber is an art educator at Runnymede Elementary and Carroll Springs School in Carroll County, Maryland.
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Article Details
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Author:Baber, Bonnie
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 1999
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