“Art Works” is a monthly column that provides bits of know-how and reminders of ways to assure the success of your art program. In the coming year, look for advice and suggestions related to learning about, responding to and making art, integrating art into the curriculum, displaying student work, reaching out to the community, and more.–B.H. by Barbara Herberholz T he figure has “figured” prominently in the choice of subject matter for many artists throughout history. Whether they may choose to depict it in an abstract or expressive form, most artists are quite capable of realistic portrayals of the human form. And we all know that one of the very first drawings made by young children is a symbol for the figure. Seen first is the very familiar “head-feet” representation—a somewhat round shape with two lines for legs and two lines projecting from the head to serve as arms, a couple of dots for eyes and a curve for the mouth and voilá! “That’s me or Daddy or Mommy.” And thus the symbol stage begins, and is then elaborated upon with added features, clothing and so on. As children emerge from the symbol stage, they want to make more realistic drawings and make comments such as, “It doesn’t look right” or “I can’t draw.” Here is where we can help them make figure drawings with which they are satisfied, and that encourage them to continue drawing. Here are some tried-and-true aids to present to these students who are in the “realistic” stage of their development. All of these suggestions assist the student in learning to see and observe accurately. Continued practice with figuredrawing activities will result in happier students, as they look at their work and see that it actually “looks right.” 1. Use a wooden manikin, available in art-supply catalogs, to show students how the body bends at the hips, knees, ankles, elbows, waist and neck. Have the students place the manikin in a pose and then imitate the pose with their own bodies. The manikin will obligingly bend in impossible positions, of course, which is a learning experience in itself! While one student gives this a try, others will observe. 2. Clip photographs of figures in action from sports magazines or the newspaper. Have students imitate the poses, swinging a tennis racquet or golf club, throwing a football, ready to swing a baseball bat, bent in a downhill position on skis, jumping rope, etc. Point out how the figures bend, reach, stretch, grab, throw, jump, plunge, push and move. See the main direction the entire body takes, at a slant or on a curve. Note the joints, waistline and angle of the head. Then students may use clay or wadded-up aluminum foil to re-create one of the poses. 3. Invite a student to pose as a model for the class, preferably in a uniform or costume of some sort, perhaps as a baseball player, skier, dancer, clown, pioneer mother in bonnet, etc. The costume helps remove any shyness the student Go to artsandactivities.com and click on this button to download the proportion manikin diagram mentioned in this article. . Figure Drawing may have in the role of a model. The model could be holding a prop of some sort, such as a bat and glove, ski poles, doll in a blanket for the pioneer mother, etc. This “real artist in a studio” approach is very convincing and exciting for the class. Before the students begin to draw, point out where the elbows or knees are bent, where the arm reaches up or out, as well as comments related to proportion (one body part in relation to another). It is often a good idea to tell students to put a mark near the top of the paper to mark the place where the top of the head is, and that the feet should then reach close to the bottom of the paper. (This will serve as a guide to help them avoid drawing a 3-inch-tall figure.) 4. Spend time acquainting the class with the realistic proportions of the figure by using the tried-and-true 16-piece tag board manikin (diagram available for download at A&A Online). Start by cutting out an oval shape that is no longer than 1.5 inches high. Then, use this oval as a measurement to cut out the remaining 15 pieces for your manikin. For instance, the upper body is 2 heads wide and 1.5 heads high, and so on. Use an overhead projector to point out basic proportions. Remind students to round the corners of each piece and taper the elbows to wrists, shoulders to waist, hip to waist, upper legs to knees, and lower legs to ankles. To make a profile view—which allows for more possibilities and variety in action poses—cut the upper body and lower body in half vertically. Then, place one upper leg underneath and the other leg on top at the base of the lower body. Do the same with the upper arms, at the shoulder. Place all 16 pieces on a piece of bond paper in an action pose. Then use a glue stick to adhere them to the paper, being careful not to use too much glue or it will show up in subsequent rubbings or prints. Then place a piece of bond paper on top and use masking tape to hold the papers steady. Don’t use drawing paper, as it is too thick to make a good rubbing. Use short, firm strokes with the side of a half-stick of a thick crayon. Press down to bring out the edges of the pieces. Don’t cover the background. As an alternative to making a crayon rubbing, use a brayer and water-soluble printing ink and roll it over the tag board manikin to make a print. Avoid covering the background with ink. The finished print of the figure may be cut out and glued to a contrasting color of background paper. 5. This rubbed (or printed) manikin may be used as a basis for creating a drawing or painting in any media—colored markers, crayons, tempera, oil pastels or colored-paper collage. Simply place a piece of paper on top of it, hold it up to the window for added transparency and draw around it, adding clothing, background and so on. n Barbara Herberholz is an ar t-education consultant in Sacramento, Calif., and an Arts & Activities Contributing Editor. She and her late husband, Donald Herberholz, Ed.D., wrote “Artworks for Elementary Teachers,” now in its Ninth Edition (McGraw Hill; 2002). march 2010 14 x www.ar tsandactivities.com
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