The Sketchbook Project is a record of how my sixth grade students used sketchbooks during their art class to record art information and create projects. Learn how I used sketchbooks instead of individual sheets of paper to teach art & creativity.
Today’s Project: Atmospheric Perspective
Riding my bike to school offers a glimpse of our Santa Barbara mountain range. Mornings offer the most spectacular views as fog (or marine layer as we like to call it) casts a hazy glow over the foothills and the low lying mountain range.
Atmospheric perspective at its most beautiful.
Many of my students on route to school would notice this, too. They just need to look up. I couldn’t depend on this so I ordered a few National Park and California Landscape Posters from All-Posters. I sourced the posters that offered as much atmospheric perspective as possible without the image being too complex.
Building upon the information we learned in week one, Creating Value, we switched mediums and learned how to create value using watercolor paints.
Watercolors are a bit trickier as the results are far less dramatic and immediate. We practiced creating value using one color and adding drops of water to create a lighter hue. But before we dove into the lesson, we talked about the drawing.
Drawing Landscape Perspective
This is my basic talking point on perspective that works for most elementary school kids:
Here: Objects closest to the viewer with darker or more intense colors. Mostly located at the very bottom of the paper but can be near the top.
Near: Objects in the middle of the picture and close to the horizon line
Far: Objects far away that diminish in size and appear lighter in color. Located at the top of the paper.
We used this strategy to break down 5-6 poster options that I displayed on the white board.
The trick with this lesson–and what differed from what I would have done the year before–was to offer the students the option to draw whatever scene appealed to them the most. Last year I would have narrowed the options down to about 2-3 scenes but all having the same basic structure. I still prefer this strategy as a teacher because it ensures that all students experiment with all of the art elements and techniques in the lesson.
But my intentions with the Sketchbook projects were different so this is what we did:
On the first day, I explained the basic concept of Here, Near and Far. I demonstrated the concept by drawing a few basic landscapes: rolling hills with some close-range element, a forest grove of trees, and a simpler version using Joshua Tree.
The second day, we explored how to create landscape colors that were light, medium and dark and how they would help distinguish distance.
The rolling hills of Wine Country was a favorite choice of most students. The drawing was straightforward but had enough detail that most children could envision adding lots of color.
The redwood were my favorite but only a few children opted for this drawing. I may have simplified the choice by making a teacher sample that was far too detailed and more nuanced than I could ever expect my students to do.
First rule of art class: never show your samples. Or if you do, make sure they are at a kid’s level. Let’s face it, dappled light can intimidate kids.
The Joshua Tree poster I purchased offered many students a simpler version of landscape perspective which in the end, turned out to be a wonderful choice and an art lesson itself. I loved how rich the sunsets looked. Plus the kids had fun learning a bit about these strange, prickly trees.
The girls were a bit surprised to learn that my husband proposed to me at Joshua Tree National Monument. 25 years ago, I didn’t value the beauty of prickles and rocks, but I do now.
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Missed the last installments of the Sketchbook project?