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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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Geometric Still Life Drawing, High School Foundations of Art

Before reading this article, click here for a complete list of supplies you can use for this and other 'Helpful Art Teacher' drawing projects.

Geometric still life

 Watch my video on drawing cubes and rectangular solids:

Practice drawing cubes using the video and step by step worksheet.

Start out by arranging the blocks so that they overlap each other on the table. Draw the top and sides of the blocks with the forms in front lower on the page than the forms in the back. To make things easier we will all assume that the light source is off the edge of the page at the upper left. So let's make the right side of each form darker. Then add a cast shadow on the table.  Watch the video below before you start. Your 3D drawings will get better with practice.

Now it's time to play with blocks. Each table will get a small set of wooden blocks. Work together to build a city, castle or other interesting structure. 

Next, use your cell phone to take three photographs of the city. The first photograph will be a bird's eye view (looking down on the structure).
The second photograph will be a worm's eye view. To take the photo, crouch down so that your eyes are the same level as the surface of the table. Rest your phone on the table near one of the structures and angle it upwards so that it is viewing the entire building from below. Pretend you are a small creature and are looking up at something massive. The entire building should be above your eye level.
Next, take a photograph of the building from the side so that part of the building is above the eye level of the camera and part of it is above, a 'street level view'. 
What do you notice about the different points of view?
How does your eye level affect the way you draw the shapes? 

Bird's Eye View

Street Level View

Worm's Eye View

Need to draw a cylindrical form? The video below illustrates how to first draw a box and then convert it to a cylinder. Select one face of your box and draw a dot in the middle of each side. Next, connect the dots with an elliptical shape. Round forms look elliptical when they are angled away from you in space. If you are drawing a round tower, keep in mind that objects above the horizon appear to curve up, since they are above your eye level. Round objects below your eye level, and thus below the horizon, appear to curve down, as depicted in the video below.

For the next few days we will be practicing drawing geometric still life arrangements. You may refer to your photographs to arrange the buildings in the same way or you may create new buildings each day. You will get a classwork grade for each practice drawing you complete.
As your drawing skills progress, I will be adding in more complex and challenging geometric shapes for you to draw.

Ready to add detail? Here is a helpful tip: 
When drawing anything in one point perspective, first envision the 'box it came in', then draw the object as if it were inside that one point perspective box.

No paintings remind me more of a child's imaginary block cities than those of Giorgio de Chirico. He used one point perspective to create surreal imaginary worlds, filled with simplified buildings that look as if they might have been built from wooden blocks.

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street

Italian Piazza

Italian Plaza With a Red Tower

Melancholy of a Beautiful Day

Piazza d’Italia

Plaza Italia (Great Game)

The Disquieting Muses

The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon

The Great Tower

The House in the House

The Nostalgia of the Infinite

The Great Metaphysician

Now it's time to test out your 3-D fantasy drawing skills with a new assignment. 

You are going to be creating an imaginary city on large poster paper. It has to look three dimensional. Your finished picture must fill the page. Use at least three reference photos. Your picture must have an extreme foreground, a foreground, middle-ground and background. You must include overlapping. The buildings must have doors and windows that are in correct perspective. You must include at least one staircase. Please figure out how an imaginary character would move through the space of your artwork, from extreme foreground to background or back again. You may include things like roads, staircases, bridges, rocket ships, cars and paths. When I look at your picture I would like to be able to imagine a character being able to journey through your artwork. You are creating an imaginary three dimensional world.

To help you to grasp the concept of using an extreme foreground in your landscape drawings, I have created a collection of my own photographs that utilize an extreme foreground.


When your sketch has been approved by the teacher, you may enlarge your drawing onto 18x24 poster paper. 

The next step is to ink in and color your drawing. 
We will be using permanent markers (not water based) and watercolor pencils. Please do not use water based markers. They will ruin your drawing when they become wet.

I am not done coloring or inking my sample drawing, but here is my work in progress.
I figured out where the light source would be off the edge of the paper (DO NOT PUT A CORNER SUN IN YOUR ARTWORK, IT WILL RUIN YOUR PICTURE AND RESULT IN A POOR GRADE) and outlined only the shadow side of each form. I added finer lines in the background and bolder lines in the foreground. Please see the video below for more detail on how to use line to ink in a drawing:

When you are done adding lines (with permanent marker), it will be time to add color. We will be using watercolor pencils for this project. You will need to be very careful not to rip or pill the paper. Once the paper is wet, work on a different section of the drawing. Do not try to color over a wet section. Wait until it is completely dry. You can always come back to it the next day. The video below gives instructions on how to add color to your drawings using watercolor pencils:

You may refer to the final landscape drawing rubric below when self evaluating.

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