Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Spray Stenciling Leaves With Liquid Watercolors






Step 1. Place real leaves on the copy machine and cover them with a piece of white paper before Xeroxing them.


Step 2. Spray the back of each copy with spray adhesive and affix it to a piece of tag board.


Have students carefully cut out the leaves exactly along the lines so that both the shape they cut out and the background paper left over look like leaves. If this is done correctly, the background paper can be later used as a stencil.
Arrange your cut out leaves and stencils on your paper the way you want them. Do you want it to look like a leaf canopy over your head? Do you want it to look like leaves blowing on a windy day? Do you want your picture to look like autumn leaves gently falling?


You can use both the cut out leaves and the negative leaf shapes


I had each class save the leaves they cut out for other groups to use. That way each class had a large variety of design choices.

Here is what my finished sample design looked like. After I was done spraying the page, I removed the leaves, rearranged them, chose different colors and created a new layer, until my page was full of overlapping shapes. I wanted to evoke the feeling of walking in the woods and looking up at the leaf canopy.

Allow your painting to dry before painting your landscape with diluted black acrylic paint. When painting trees, always start at the bottom and paint upwards, lifting the brush slightly to make the branches get narrower as the branches grow. Here I used both a small round brush and a fan brush for texture.





The sprayed leaf silhouettes remind me of the feeling I get when I am walking in the woods and look up at the light shining through the leaves overhead.












Student art gallery






Saturday, September 10, 2016

Drawing magnified leaves: Finding the details






You have seen countless leaves in your lifetime but until you sit down and examine one and try to draw it accurately under a magnifying glass, can you truly claim to have looked at a leaf? Learning how to draw means learning how to see. This project will help you to notice details that you have never seen before.
I work in a city school where it would be impractical for me to take my students outside to hunt for leaves. Instead, I picked up a good selection from the park before coming to class and ran them all through the school's laminating machine.

This works surprisingly well. The last time I did this the leaves lasted for about five years. I used fresh leaves. It took them a few weeks to lose their color and become brittle.


Take a magnifying glass and look at part of a leaf closely. Notice the details and the veins. The part of the leaf that is magnified appears larger than the rest of the leaf, so the edges look like they do not match up.











To draw your leaf, start out by drawing the stem and the central vein. Next draw the smaller veins branching out from the main one. Then draw the outline of the leaf. Use a compass to draw the magnifying glass covering part of your leaf. Erase the section of the leaf in your drawing that is under the magnifying glass and draw it larger so that the edges do not match up to the rest of the leaf. 

Now, look closely. What do you see under the magnifying glass? Be as detailed and observant as possible. Draw all the veins and lines you can see. Use the side of the pencil or make a series of short lines next to each other to indicate where you see shadows. Blend the pencil with your finger and erase areas where you see highlights. Try to make your drawing as realistic as possible. Copy the details of the worksheet at the end of this article to draw a realistic looking old fashioned magnifying glass. Add a slight shadow underneath the edge of your leaf to make your drawing look more three dimensional. 




Before laminating my leaves I scanned them, using the app Turbo Scan on my phone, to create these worksheets. They are not as detailed as the actual leaves of course, but they are useful for looking at the sheer variety of leaf shapes:



















To learn more about the science of leaves, watch this video: 









Here is the worksheet I made for my students:


The objective of this lesson is to create beautiful artwork and to draw the viewers eye into a tiny world that not many people notice. What other things can you examine closely and draw, using a magnifying glass?

STUDENT ART GALLERY