Art 1

I always loved teaching foundation classes. They were usually larger classes with a variety of skill levels among the students as well as assorted ages which could present a set of challenges. However this gave me an opportunity to tweek my creative teaching muscles and try some new and innovative things to engage them. Here you will find some of the structure with which that I approached my first year classes. If you have some ideas that have worked over and over again, please share so we can create an archive of successful ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.

First is the outline that I started planning from each year.

ART I : Foundations in Art:

First Year students will be involved in the following areas:

DRAWING; (6-8 weeks)

Object drawing

Contour drawing

Gesture drawing

Outdoor drawing

Exploration of various drawing media such as; different degrees of pencil, charcoal, conte, crayon, flair pens and markers, and india ink. This particular learning experience should include an appreciation of the drawings of the great masters. We will involve ourselves in the subjective and the emotional approach to drawing.




Color Theory

In painting, we will explore the aforementioned medias as well as incorporate art  history by means of slides, films, color reproductions, and textbooks.


Develop design awareness through cut paper, collage, & photography.

Design with repeated patterns.

Develop an understanding of the principles and elements of design as related to an art experience.


Several craft processes should be included with a variety of  materials and experiences such as;

clay and ceramics,paper mache’, enameling, and fabric crafts such as; tie-dye, batik, stitchery, and applique.

PRINTMAKING;(3-5 weeks)

Exploration of the simple printing techniques such as;

monoprints,collage prints, gadget prints, frottage prints, stencil prints.

SCULPTURE;(5-7 weeks)

Wood, clay, wire assemblage, sandcasting,mobiles, cardboard, toothpicks, plastics.


Taught in conjunction with areas studied.

Ancient Periods through the Renaissance.

Now that is what the state recommended at one time. So where do we begin in offering first year students a solid foundation in all they need to succeed in making art.

This will be a review of all that I did in my 34 years and a refresher for my favorite projects  that worked over and over again. Details will be provided for how you can implement these projects into your curriculum and experience the same kind of successes.

Contour drawing of stacks of shows

Dip a toothpick in ink to draw a "handful"

Warm Up Activities allowed me to get acquainted with my students and them with each other. So most all years, I started my classes with a series of   “Get Acquainted” Warm up Activities. These warm-ups will be added later. After that I introduced the students to the state requirements with an accompanied slide-sound show to show them how creatively my students and I covered those things that should be taught in a foundations level art class.Presentations will also be shared in the Members ONLY area.  These presentations were an opportunity to show the new students how much fun we have through the year.

Many times I surveyed the classes and let them give me some input as to what they saw that they liked as a VOTE to do that project. If they had another idea, I ask for that and had some great new projects to try. Nothing like good synergy from the beginning of the year. It also gave me an opportunity to read how they communicate in writing.

INFO on Index Card

Another sure thing was to fill out an index card of information with home address, phone number and parents name and contact information. This served two purposes, it provided the information needed for competition and secondly gave me a way to talk with parents if the need arises. On the back of the index card, the students were ask to fill out their schedule ( class period, teacher, subject, and room number) so that I could find them throughout the day. On the bottom, I ask permission to publish and photograph their work for my teaching archive along with their signature. The following statement was used; “You have permission to photograph and publish my artwork. “These were color coded with a marks a lot across the top of the group of cards and filed in a recipe box by periods for future reference.

Name Events:

Students were ask to write their name on the unlined side of another index card. They were shown some examples of previous student’s work. They were told to write their names so that they are neat and readable.They would first work in pencil and then in  only black and white. ( Fine point markers were eventually distributed) We talked briefly about how letters can be black on white which is typical or they could be more imaginative and make the background black with white letters. You see that I am sneaking in a lesson on positive and negative space. They could also include a symbol of something that interested them.

“Art is a technique of communication. The image is the most complete technique of all communication.” —Claus Oldenburg

These NAME PLATES could be used on the side of their individual portfolios,  on art shelves, or with their art work on display out in the school or community. This lesson is like a pre-test showing you the way your students think in addition to enlightening you to their level of skills. I had my students do these at each level and they got better and better. Here is a name plate by Jose Martinez. By looking at it it was obvious that Jose was open to “coaching”( note the black on white and white on black) and was a bit of a perfectionist. This was the case in all of his work. He was an excellent Art I student and an all around nice guy. More  of my favorites will be added. This is one assignment you don’t have to worry about them putting their name on.

Jose Martinez

Teaching art can be like living parallel lives, you make different choices based upon what you think will work. I will share with  you my alternate assignments from year to year. You can then choose which ones you would like to offer your young art enthusiasts. Be patient as I have over three decades of lesson plans to move through.

The good news is that after a while when something worked year after year then that got set in stone as a sure fired SUCCESS.

Sharing Successes is Site’s INTENTION!

Sharing successes is really the intent and purpose of this and all my sister sites. If you have any of those projects you absolutely LOVE, which I am sure that you do, please comment and SHARE them with us.

Drawing Attention to CONTOUR

It was always good to encourage these beginning art students with statements that would sway them away from their beginning art student fears. I always told my students if they can sign their name then they can draw. That got their attention! I proceeded to talk about Nicolade’s Natural Way to Draw and Frederick Franck’s The Zen of Drawing and Seeing as Meditation. We even did some preliminary drawings from Betty Edwards’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  To begin our work in the concept of learning to draw,we would then do some short timed exercises with blind contour drawing. One of my requirements is that of  having the students cover up their drawing hand with a sheet of paper. Why?

No matter how many times you ask them NOT to look at their paper, they do look and that messes with their head. If I want to build confidences in the beginning stages of their drawing experiences then I have to assist them. They must be clear that this blind contour drawing exercise provides the opportunity to coordinate their hand and eye movement. They must also know and believe that distortion is expected as they begin to coordinate the two. I reassure them that once coordination is achieved they will be surprised at what they can draw without looking at their paper.

Hands, shoes, simple objects like bottles, and books and things from their purse, pocket, or backpack provide subject matter for these beginning drawings.Paper can be the back of old posters, inexpensive newsprint or typing paper as these are just small preliminary exercises. Later you can move onto larger newsprint and better papers. I always found it more exciting for the students to change media frequently. Drawing with white crayons on white paper then bringing watercolor or inks to it, changing colors of markers with each object or part, and using three different media. Experiment to see what works for you.

Realize that contour drawing in both the blind and modified approach should be repeated throughout the year to allow students to grow in their artistic expressions.

Doing-A-Drawing Test

The end of the first semester is a  Doing-a-DRAWING TEST. This gives me the opportunity to reinforce the steps toward a good drawing and a well composed  image. This is also the time that I add to my collection of STILL LIFE objects. I ask that my students bring in something unique and interesting, something free ( or purchased at a garage  or tag sale), that we can keep.All sorts of treasures come in. That’s when I begin building my mammoth size theme driven still life. I stack boxes and drape fabric and use shutters, doors , foam board—all intended to separate the different items into a theme. Themes can be sports, girly things, toys, gardening, cooking, music, western, and more—the skies the limit. Set these items up and then prepare your students for their drawing test by stating the criteria ( each assigned points). Provide viewfinders to allow your art students the opportunity to choose a section of the huge still life with 7-9 or 9-11 objects partially drawn.

The Do-A-Drawing Test may have criteria that is stated in the following way.

  1. Draw 9-11 items in modified CONTOUR LINE Drawing,
  2. Lines only,no values,
  3. Zoom in on these objects, and
  4. show details in LINE ONLY,
  5. Go off the page in all directions.

The Doing-a-Drawing Test will be downloadable as will many other lessons. This drawing takes us into second semester where the students will now do what I call, “hang media on the lines.” They will choose media and continue this assignment by transferring it to better paper and develop it in color, value, and media of choice. This project is called,” Decisions.” Over 18 media choices are offered with some very specific ground rules  that come with the freedom of choice. Stay tuned!

“The very act of drawing an object, however badly, swiftly takes the drawer from a woolly sense of what the object looks like to a precise awareness of its component parts and particularities.” (Alain de Botton)

Sketchbooks, Visual Journals & Altered Books

Sketchbooks, visual journals, and eventually altered books have always been a significant part of my curriculum. I found that by extending the concepts taught into sketchbook activities, the students opened up with their own personal ideas. It allowed me to get to know my students in ways not possible in any other way. In addition, by giving them the freedom to choose how to do certain things—that freedom of expression was translated into increased confidences in future projects. An entire page will be devoted to assignments that go beyond the classroom. In the first year classes, we made our own bound journals and the cover designs had to be color line designs. See the how to steps in the  ART LESSON LIBRARY!

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