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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Thursday, November 11, 2010


Print out the above half faces. Make sure your print outs are the same size. Both pictures are actually mirror images of the right hand side of the Mona Lisa's face. I have cropped the picture and printed it in gray scale for this exercise.

 To get started you will need:
A printed copy of both images
An HB, 2B and 6B pencil
An eraser
A blending stomp or piece of tissue paper, wrapped around your finger to blend the light and dark tones
A 9x12 piece of drawing paper

 Fold your drawing paper in half
 Place the fold against the right half of the face.
 Use your HB pencil to lightly sketch in the left half of the face.
 Use your 2B pencil to lightly shade in the mid-tones
 Use your 6B pencil to block in the shadows
 Use your eraser and blending stomp to soften the edge of the shadows and create highlights.

 Your drawing should have highlights, mid-tones and shadows.
 When you are done drawing and shading the left half of the face, open up your picture and mark to the right of the fold where the top of the head, hairline, eye bottom of the nose, lips and chin touch the fold
 Now it's time to fold the other half of the Mona Lisa and place it over the face you have drawn.
 Start to draw and shade the other half of the face.

As you draw, try checking your work periodically using a mirror. Place the folded paper up against the edge of the mirror to create a complete face. Compare your shading to Leonardo Da Vinci's shading to see how you can improve on your work.

The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris. To learn more about this famous painting visit the Louvre's website: http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp?bmLocale=en

Click here for a guided tour of the masterpieces of the Louvre, including the Mona Lisa.

I created the worksheet below to help my students avoid some common drawing errors. They used it as a self assessment checklist before turning in their work. 


Half a face by a seventh grade student
Copied, flipped and put together to
create the entire face using Adobe Photoshop

Drawing by seventh grade student

This student drew directly on the Mona Lisa print out.
Left half: Leonardo da Vinci
Right half: 6th grade student

The pencil drawings below were all created by middle school students by folding a photograph of a complete face in half, drawing the other side of it, flipping the photograph and then completing the drawing. 

For this lesson, students searched the Internet and printed out the entire face of their choice in grayscale. 

The trick, when folding the photograph, is to make sure the crease goes down the middle of the nose and lips regardless of whether the paper is folded exactly in half. Please note that this method only works when the person in the photograph is directly facing the viewer.  

For more lessons on drawing and shading faces please see my other posts:


Face shading the 3/4 turned head step by step


  1. I want to be in your class.

  2. This is pretty cool. Actually, you draw both halves proportionately. Notice how it is the same face of same person faced from front as it is from the other perspective? Personally, I could use this as another technique, to draw people facing the front in terms of perspective other than a personal technique I use. But, this method is great for shading. Also, this is very easy to follow and constructive and two of the drawings even in the smallest detail, look like Adam Sandler-LOL! Great blog.