In their homeroom classes, the Grade 4 students have been studying organisms and cultivating their garden. They have been focused on the central idea that “organisms rely on one another” while in art class we’ve been engaged in the visual art inquiry into how “the natural world is a rich source for imaginative artistic creation”, looking specifically at the CONNECTION between the natural world and the imagination as seen in visual art. How do artists combine what they see in the environment around them with what they imagine in their minds? From where do ideas come?
Students began their two-part drawing project by, first, focusing on organisms (in this case, plants) and on the realistic depiction of them through close observation. We looked at how we focus first on the simple shapes and lines found in the plants’ leaves and stems; then, how we refine the shapes and lines into something more closely approaching the actual plants; and finally, how we add the many small details which brings the image to its realistic conclusion.
Then the students moved on to the second stage of the project. Having left areas of their paper blank, these young artists then had to tap into their imagination — considering the plant drawing they’d just finished — and continue the drawing by depicting some imaginary, fantastical imagery. We discussed how artists do this: sometimes by thinking of their own interests and drawing those (animals, movie characters, patterns, particular colors); sometimes by closing their eyes and letting their minds wander; sometimes by looking around and noticing pictures or words in their immediate environment, one of which might spur a memory or thought or other image. Students brainstormed many different sources for visual ideas, and they also took risks in trying to depict depth through overlapping and shading and in attempting new techniques of coloring.
In the end, the Grade 4 artists had the opportunity to practice different approaches to drawing — via observation and fantasy — in the creation of original artworks begun in the natural world and ended in the world of their own imaginations.
Students at work, in-progress artwork, and final drawings: