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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drawing With Leonardo

Last week we made sketchbooks in my art class & this week--we filled them up! Nah, we didn't fill them, but I certainly gave them a bunch of stuff to draw this week! This week's class was all about Leonardo da Vinci and his magnificent sketchbooks!


The man of the hour--Mr. da Vinci! (There on the left in 1514).


Da Vinci is probably most famous to us today as an artist (painter & sculptor), but he was also an engineer, a town planner, an inventor, a scientist, a writer, musician and more! He filled countless sketchbooks with his notes, studies, and drawings. Here is a lesson that helps kids explore what kind of work he did. The classroom is divided into four stations:

Station One: Drawing From Nature
Station Two: Strange Beasts
Station Three: Backwards Writing
Station Four: Interesting Inventions

I gave a quick discussion about da Vinci's work and then walked around the room explaining what they'd be doing in each station while showing them examples of da Vinci's work relating to each station. They were able to spend about 10 minutes at each station.

Station One: Drawing From Nature


Supplies Needed:

  • Fruits or veggies cut in half (I used an orange and a pepper)
  • Shells, flowers, leaves or other objects from nature
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Colored pencils and crayons
  • Regular pencils and erasers
Directions:

On the instruction sheet for this station, I had two pages of da Vinci's drawings from nature: oak leaves with acorns and flowers. The instruction sheet encouraged the children to observe (look at) the natural objects on the table and explore how they are formed. Notice the inside and outside of the object. Draw it's texture and color. Draw all of it's parts and label them like da Vinci did in his work.

Station Two: Strange Beasts

Supplies Needed:
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Colored pencils and crayons
  • Regular pencils and erasers
Optional Supplies:
  • Last year, I created a wheel that the children could spin to select different animal parts to combine into strange mythical beasts. I brought these wheels back in for this exercise, but your children can use their imaginations :-)
  • The Bestiary Book from my last year's Medieval Art class (a Bestiary Book is a book of mythical and real animals created in early history to document the animals of the world).
  • Blind draw envelopes I took a couple of envelopes and wrote a description of a beast on the outside of each. The children were instruction to read the description and draw the animal described. When they were done, they could look inside the envelope and see what animal I was describing. This is what they said:
"This beast has the head of a [dog]...the eyes of a cat, the ears of a porcupine...the eyebrows of a lion and the neck of a turtle." (that part is from da Vinci's notebook, I added the next part...) It's claws are deadly and its thin, long body is covered with armor-like disks (It's a dragon).

This beast has a small head, long neck and a whip-like tail. It roars to life and it doesn't chew its food when it eats--it uses a whirling force to inhale its prey. Its body shines and can come in many colors. It is walked by man as it hunts its prey (It's a vacuum). *Please note, many of the children did not like this one--they felt rather grumpy that I had deceived them and "made" them draw an animal. 

Directions:

On the instruction sheet for this station, I wrote the following: Back in da Vinci's time, travel was limited. Most people never left their village their entire lives! People would talk about the strange animals that lived in other places, but things were often exaggerated!

Create an unusual beast. You can combine the parts of several animals, if you like. Think about these things:
  • Where will your beast live?
  • What color is it?
  • What does it eat?
  • What texture is the coat?
  • Is it mean or nice?
  • Name your animal.
Station Three: Backwards Writing

Supplies Needed:
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Regular pencils and erasers
  • Quills with watered-down tempura paint
  • Hand mirrors
Directions:

On the instruction sheet for this station, I had an example from da Vinci's sketchbook of his "backward" writing. I also had the alphabet printed backwards so that the children could see how the letter should be formed. They were able to create secret signs and messages using the backward writing. I encouraged them to use a pencil first and then go over it with the quill. 

Station Four: Interesting Inventions

Supplies Needed:
  • Items to take apart (I used a spring-type clothespin, a cassette tape, a Lego man, a ball point pen and a wine bottle opener)
  • Station handout (examples of da Vinci's work relating to the station and instructions for the station).
  • Blank paper (the children could also use their sketchbooks)
  • Colored pencils and crayons
  • Regular pencils and erasers
Directions:

On the instruction sheet for this station, I had a couple of da Vinci's drawings of inventions (the giant crossbow and the armored car). The instruction sheet encouraged the children to observe (look at) the manmade objects on the table and explore how they are built. They could draw the outside of the object (or the object "together") and then take it apart and draw the pieces (of everything except the wine opener). I encouraged them to notice the details such as: screws, lettering, switches, textures, edges and springs.

OR...they could create an invention of their own. They needed to think about what the invention would do, what it would look like and what the parts would be. These could be labeled (maybe with backwards writing!). 

All in all this was a great class where the children were able to explore the many facets of Leonardo da Vinci's work! These stations could be turned into three to four separate classes if you wish, but I think my hour-long class was just enough for my students to get a little sampling of the wonderful work of da Vinci!


Resources:


"Da Vinci," by Mike Venezia (ISBN 0-516-42275-8)
"Discovering Great Artists," by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (ISBN 0-935607-09-9)
"Eyewitness Books: Renaissance," by Andrew Langley (ISBN 0-7894-6624-4)
"Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer," by Robert Byrd (ISBN 0-525-47033-6)

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