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Top it with tissue.

If students moan and groan about what should be an interesting, positive experience, they obviously need to be motivated. My response to the outcry, "Oh no, not another still life!" was to add new ideas and materials to a classic contour drawing activity.

Line drawings with markers appeal to all age groups; the simple, flowing lines are easy to make and students feel a sense of satisfaction as they match them to the outlines of an observed object. As students master the outlines of objects, compositional elements such as color, proportion, emphasis, dimension, balance, rhythm and pattern begin to gain their attention. Adding tissue paper to contour drawings holds students' attention and gives them insight into compositional issues.

To begin, my eighth-grade students used permanent black felt-tipped markers, with either fine or wide tips, and heavy white drawing paper for their work. (Note: Use permanent markers only in well-ventilated areas. Consider using non-permanent, water-based markers if good ventilation is not possible.) Students drew directly on the paper, using long, fluid strokes--as opposed to stiff, short, "sketchy" ones--to capture the contour form of simple still lifes placed about the artroom. They were urged to work large, use all the space in their picture plane and to overlap where appropriate.

I then demonstrated how layers of transparent tissue paper can enhance contour drawings. Layering and overlapping various colors in a light to dark spatial progression can create a sense of depth in the drawings. I also demonstrated how tissue color panels can be used for emphasis, color mixing, balance, proportioning and compositional unification. Students could now make "ordinary" contour drawings into extraordinarily expressive images.

The technique for applying the tissue paper to the drawings was simple. A white glue-and-water mixture was brushed onto the drawings, tissue paper shapes laid down and more diluted glue brushed over them. My young artists soon discovered several things: the thin tissue tends to wrinkle easily; the ink of water-based markers tends to spread and smear; and some brands of tissue "bleed." When my students felt that accidental variations were unacceptable, I reassured them that such differences often enhanced their work.

Everyone was pleased with the results. I was especially pleased to see students demonstrating renewed enthusiasm for contour drawing. "Topping it with tissue" proved to be the motivation my students needed!

Paula Guhin is an art teacher in the Aberdeen, South Dakota Public Schools.
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Author:Guhin, Paula
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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