Learning to “see like an artist” is all about training your brain to respond ”mindfully” to what you see. It’s about looking carefully and noticing lines, shapes, colors and values as you look at things.
When students learn to “see like an artist” it enables them to better translate what they see onto their paper or canvas.
This is also a valuable life skill for kids beyond the art classroom. It can help them become more observant of the world all around them in every aspect of life.
These 4 activities will help kids learn to “see like an artist”
1. Do a jigsaw puzzle.
Whaaat? You may think this is unrelated to art, but doing a jigsaw puzzle is a great way to build observation skills. While assembling a puzzle, kids are noticing and looking for lines, shapes, colors, values, and patterns the entire time. And puzzles develop strategic thinking skills, too!
You can find jigsaw puzzles to suit a wide range of interests and skill levels. My favorite puzzle company is Eeboo, which makes beautiful, artist-designed puzzles for kids and adults. Puzzles are easy to drop in and out of, depending on how much time you have at a given moment.
Pro Tip! It’s helpful to assemble your puzzle on a stretched canvas or similar surface. Then it’s easy to move it out of the way when you need to.
2. Do some contour drawings.
Drawing the outside edges of things helps kids hone their observation skills and develop their drawing ability. Contour drawing trains them to notice details and relationships they might otherwise overlook.
My “Learn to Draw with Contour Drawing” pdf takes kids through 4 fun contour drawing activities (blind, memory, guided, and touch). Plus, you get 2 bonus contour drawing projects to extend the fun.
3. Play “Find This Negative Space”.
Negative space is the space in and around a subject, like the hole of a donut. Drawing becomes so much easier when you consider both the positive and negative space as you draw.
“Find This Negative Space” can be played inside or outside, with 2 or more players. Players take one minute to find a subject with some negative space that looks interesting. Then they draw only the negative space of that subject.
Next, they exchange papers and try to locate the subject that negative space “belongs to”. (Hints are allowed, and often needed!) Once players have found the negative space that was drawn for them, they complete the drawing of that subject.
4. And last but not least… Echo Drawing!
Echo Drawing is an independent activity, perfect for when you have a few (or many!) extra minutes to fill. Echo Drawing trains kids to observe relationships between lines and shapes as they duplicate a series of abstract designs.
Try using all 4 of these fun activities to develop your students’ ability to “see like an artist”. The observation skills they develop will benefit them in countless ways.
an inspiring quote:
“Try to forget what objects you have before you – a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, ‘Here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow,’ and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape until it gives you your own impression of the scene before you.” ~ Claude Monet
One of the keys to learning to “see like an artist” lies with the conversation you have in your head. Try to refrain from “naming” things as you draw or paint them. Instead, describe them in terms of their line, shape, color, and value.
Kids will need reminders about this because it’s so contrary to what we all instinctively do. But it may be the single most helpful thing when it comes to improving their drawing and painting skills!