Narrative Still Life

Lesson Plan by Amanda E. Gross
National Visual Art Standards: 1, 2, & 4
Cognitive, affective, & psychomotor skills
15 Sessions

[click to view my Story WorksheetValue Worksheet, Rubric, QuizESL Quiz and PowerPoint]

[See blue text for ESL (English as a Second Language) modifications; please note that the textbook reading is not recommended for Beginning ESL.]

Unit Title: Drawing
Unit Goal: Some artists focus on value & proportion to depict objects realistically.
Lesson Title: Narrative Still Life
Lesson Goals: Some artists utilize the still life genre to visually convey a narrative about their place within society or to tell a fictional story.

Lesson Objectives:  As a result of instruction, students will be able to:

  1. Complete a drawing of three still life objects, in colored pencil & pastel, focusing on value and proportion.
  2. Draw two objects in the blind contour method.
  3. Sketch three objects together, in proper proportion.
  4. Work consistently during class, follow instructions, perform required tasks & meet due dates.
  5. Complete a worksheet with two value scales, in colored pencil.
  6. Work in a group to set up a still life with a narrative in mind.

Vocabulary Words: value, tints, shades, chiaroscuro, still life, horizon line, proportion, blind contour, contour, composition. For ESL: ground, background, shadow, still life, value, dark value, light value, proportion, narrative.

Visual References: 
Left to right: My demo still life drawing (Amanda E Gross), Audrey Flack’s Marilyn (Vanitas), Chris Peters’ Sins of the Flesh, Elizabeth Crawford’s The Train Wreck II, Manny Farber’s Domestic Movies, James Rosenquist’s Nomad, Janet Fish’s Dog Days, my Value Worksheet and Story Worksheet. Additional resources include a PowerPoint presentation, demonstrations of blind contour and contour drawing, on measuring objects to achieve correct proportion, & on still life set-up. Textbook reading of The Visual Experience (Second Edition) by Jack Hobbs and Richard Salome.

Instructional Support Materials: Powerpoint presentation, textbook, laptop “dongle,” projector, screen, still life objects, dry erase board with markers, my Value & Narrative worksheets, rubrics, lesson-introduction handouts, numerous demonstrations.

Additional Supplies: Prismacolor colored pencils, erasers, pencils, sharpeners, sketchbooks, still life objects, cardboard, glue, rubrics, handouts, my Value & Narrative worksheets.

Assessment Strategies: Group & individual discussions, observation during work time, written in-class quiz, written reflections, Value worksheet, Narrative worksheet (completed with group), pencil sketches, final drawings, vocabulary quiz.

Evaluation criteria / evidence of success: 

      • Student’s drawing shows observable effort towards achieving correct proportion and value. A wide variety of value is seen in colored pencil execution, shadows are perceived and included, & objects are positioned with accurate size relationships. Drawing synthesizes gained knowledge about narrative and technical skill.
      • Student properly utilizes the blind contour method as demonstrated, to really observe her/his two objects and improve hand-eye coordination.
      • Student completes at least one pencil sketch of three overlapping objects; drawing serves as evidence that student utilized proper measurement technique to achieve correct proportions.
      • Student observes value demonstration & completes the worksheet, clearly articulating five value levels (burnishing to very light) with two different colored pencils.
      • Student utilizes class time efficiently & works relatively independently. Student proficiently completes quiz, responsibly meets all due dates, & follows other in-class instructions.
      • Student works respectfully & productively with tablemates to choose three objects for a still life. They successfully glue down the objects onto a cardboard base & agree on an angle for each person’s vantage point. Drawing & accompanying worksheet serve to clearly explain the group’s narrative, & how the objects are perceived as having meaning.
      • Reflection is thoughtful, concise, relevant, mostly grammatically correct, & answers all prompt questions. Therein it should be explained how the student’s objects relate to a culture/story.

Class Progression:
Day 1: 
1. Motivation: Introduce project & pass out handout on project criteria & steps. Explain that some artists utilize the still life genre to visually convey how they feel about society or to tell a story about their society or culture; we’re going to call this a cultural narrative. We’re going to learn how to draw a still life, & we’re going to tell a story through our drawings.
2. Discuss how sometimes still lifes can be viewed as social constructions, showing how people live and who they are (gender, race, class, religion, etc). What do you think a social construction might be? What is a cultural narrative?
3. View the PowerPoint presentation & ask the following:

  • What do you see? How do you think the artist was trying to show gender, class, race, religion, or other social constructions? What’s the story here?
  • Did these artists use drawing as communication? We’re going to use drawing as communication. We’re also going to use drawing as perception, and try to draw objects realistically. Has anyone drawn a still life before? What things do we have to think about when we’re trying to accurately depict objects?

4. Explore: Students learn about line by making blind contour drawings. Demonstrate how to do a blind contour drawing. Students pick two objects to draw using blind contour.
5. Students do blind contour drawings of two objects touching.

Days 2-4:
1. Demonstrate how to measure objects to draw them in proportion.
2. Students learn about line &amp composition: students arrange a still life of 3 objects of varying size, then do pencil sketches taking up 5 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.

Days 5 & 6:
1. Demonstrate & discuss how to arrange a still life while crafting a story about the objects.
2. With their table-mates, students choose 3 objects from a large table, glue the objects onto a cardboard base.
3. Students make up a story to go along with the objects, which they will try to convey with their still lifes through color, etc.
4. Student groups fill out a Story Worksheet, wherein they tell about their objects, story, and offer some tentative titles for their final pieces.
5. If time allows, students may begin sketching their still life setup.

Days 8-14:
1. Students work on completing their final, colored pencil still life drawings, focusing on color, proportion, value, composition, & storytelling.
2. Around Day 12, hold a mid-point critique & quiz review:

  • Students tack their drawing to the board, &amp: insightfully discuss them.
  • Review vocabulary terms together (ensure students can both see & say them) & have visual references for further comprehension.

Day 15:
1. Reflection: Quiz on vocabulary words & techniques.
2. Individual written reflection, & verbal reflection for ESL students.
3. Final critique: Students tack their drawings to a large wall and sit around them. Each group describes their conveyed cultural narrative or story. Who’s drawing do you like or what to talk about, and why? Who utilized line, value, texture, or composition really well? How did they do
It? Did anyone further their narrative with their color choices?


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