Teaching kids about the figure is definitely an ongoing project as there is so much to explore. I wanted my students to recognize that there are countless ways to approach the figure, from realistic to abstract to expressive, etc. After showing the children various types of figure drawings, paintings, and sculptures done by a number of artists, we began focusing in on the head. I showed them portrait paintings by people like Vango and Picasso to get a look at some abstract and expressive approaches, and I pointed out how they don't necessarily always use skin tone colors. We covered symbolism a little bit and that there could be intentions behind intense colors used in many of the faces we saw. We got into the whole discussion about how different colors can express a certain mood, and that perhaps some of the "blue faces" we were seeing meant that the artist was trying to convey a message of sadness and that the red ones by some artists seemed "hot" or "angry," and so forth.
After the lesson, the kids were given copies of faces that I had drawn up for them to explore different approaches to shading and coloring in a face. I find that offering them drawings to color in gives them a chance to pay more attention to the face structure, before giving a lesson on drawing the face, but there is no right or wrong here. Anyway, many of my students preferred the more abstract or expressive approach, where I drew obvious shapes to simplify the features on the head. Some wanted to try something more "realistic" by adding shading with pencils and shading tools that we recently had a lesson on. Nearly all of them loved the idea of coloring the faces in with intense colors to represent a mood. This exercise ended up being a great outlet for the kids to express themselves.
There are countless lessons to be had on the figure, and we will certainly be coming back to this topic soon. In the meantime, we are getting ready for an art show coming up at our school in April. Stop by again in mid April, as we will definitely have photos up from the show.
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Little Wonders Art Teacher