Saturday, April 25, 2015

Reflections from the art room - Templates & Stencils for Elementary Art

On some projects and in some cases I allow kids to use templates or stencils for certain shapes. I know that using templates in the art room is not a popular thing to do (or even the dirty little secret of some art teachers); here are some reasons to keep them around the primary art room.

If you didn't teach how to do it right or well...

If I am teaching a lesson to young kids on say, where to place the features on the head, I don't have time to also teach them how to draw a good oval or egg shape. My class is only 45 minutes plus for elementary you have to limit the amount of instructions to what they can hold in their head. If you have them freehand the oval, inevitably someone or a table full in the class will spend their whole 25 minutes trying to make that initial shape PERFECT. If the lesson is not on how to draw face shapes, then we shouldn't hold them accountable for drawing it freehand if it gives them stress. I mean it is stressing them out because they were not taught how to draw an oval easily and correctly.
Which brings me to...

What you might like aesthetically may not be what the kids like: Alice Neel vs. Vermeer

Robbie Tillotson, 1973 by Alice Neel
You might like that misshapen asymmetrical look of an oval drawn by a child, but the kids see it as a flaw. In their heads they want things precise around the time of 2nd grade up (some of them). You can try and talk them into embracing the beautiful wonkiness of their line (like Picasso loves) but they will leave feeling like they just can't draw and you, the teacher, dooesn't get it. In your head you want the playfulness of an Alice Neel portrait and they want the precision of Vermeer! If the lesson is on creating fluid, freeform lines, don't use one, if the lesson is on something else, then why does it have to conform to your aesthetics instead of theirs?

Straight Edges or Templates - what's the difference

Have you let kids use rulers to create a straight line when needed? What is the difference between that and an ellipse template?

Guaranteeing a size or position

 Sometimes you need a young child to draw the FIRST shape a certain size. You explain how to do it and 90% make it the right size but 10% will always need to restart from the beginning. If you don't catch it right away that can really upset a young artist.

Professionals use them

I am also a still-life artist and my work is  realistic. If I am doing a still-life and the ellipse on a cup is off, it will throw the whole aspect of realism off. So if I have redone one several times and it still feels wrong I will get out an ellipse template. I learned about ellipse templates in art school and later in a workshop with another professional artist.

Still-life with elipses by Nicole Caulfield (me)

It is really just Scaffolding

For more information on scaffolding see Wikipedia Instructional Scaffolding

If you want to teach how to draw a good ellipse or oval - here is a great tutorial I found by Mike Sibley.

or buy some of these from Dick Blick for your classroom for when you don't have time to teach everything.
Master Ellipse Maker Template

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