Drawing Technique: Teaching Students To Draw What They See

Students with limited art instruction might develop an anxiety to begin drawing. There is an inclination to draw “what you know” rather than “draw what you see”. I understand this anxiety, since I, myself, faced this dilemma as an undergraduate Art student. I recall a drawing lesson from Professor and Artist Don Suggs, in which he blurred an image on a projector and asked us to draw an image “out of focus.” This assignment helped us to draw what we see rather than draw from what we know. As a current Art Educator, I have focused my attention on eliminating the anxiety from students that have never had drawing instruction in their school careers. Based on Don Suggs’s instruction, I decided to adjust this lesson plan with my City College Art Education students, and we experimented by creating a charcoal drawing of a New York City landscape.

The materials you will need are a projector with an image (ex. portrait, landscape, etc.) The students should not be aware of the final image. You completely blur the image to an extreme so that students only see fuzzy shapes. Students will have 5 minutes to quickly draw the shapes. Since students are drawing shapes, the anxiety of drawing from realism should diminish. After 5 minutes, you begin to slightly focus the image and the shapes will become more in focus. Encourage the students to use their eraser and explain the importance of erasing, since the eraser, itself, is an instrument for drawing. The moment of awe will come once you completely focus the image, and student will already have a foundation to finish their charcoal drawing.

City College Art Ed students had a great discussion around the idea of drawing large shapes, rather than precise details. After viewing each other’s drawings, the conclusions were that there was no anxiety of the “black canvas” and the results were not only very different form one another. Although there are many traditional ways to practice “drawing what you see”, this lesson allowed students a new way to discover their unique drawing style.

By Brenda Zamora
CCNY Adjunct Lecturer

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