GASP Model Integrated Arts Project – Visual Arts


Model Project: Art To The Core—Bringing Drawing And Painting Into The Core Curriculum

GASP Artist: Janet Rayner |

Most students and teachers have a desire for an improved understanding of drawing and painting. Art To The Core encourages them to observe the world around them more carefully and in detail and then gives them the skills and tools that can help them translate their observations graphically. Art has traditionally been part of our learning process. We are taught very specifically how to draw our letters and numbers. We call it writing, but it is drawing. We learn our ABCs by singing them. When art is dropped from the teaching techniques, things become sterile. Yet art still permeates the tools of our curriculum or all our books would be generic black and white with Helvetica writing. Most students need art to learn more effectively. That’s why textbooks have illustrations. The mind is stimulated by graphic representations of the subject in a way that words or numbers alone cannot accomplish.

Through engaging in Art To The Core students are able to illustrate their stories, botanicals, geography or perhaps even diagrams of dissections more effectively which can make the subject matter clearer than a photo can, by enhancing or exaggerating the details, and thus increasing the effectiveness of the learning tool (“a picture can be worth a thousand words!”). The skills articulated in Art To The Core are skills that can be used for many applications: illustration of writings, scientific illustration, mechanical drawing, botanical or other biological drawing, figure work for such things as fashion design or for personal expression in the realm of visual arts. Through participating in the project teachers learn techniques that they can teach to subsequent classes, expanding and increasing the value of the lessons taught in their classrooms. They understand more about the steps, the techniques and the use of tools and templates. The more they hand on these teachings to students, the more proficient they become as teachers. It becomes easier and easier to integrate the creative aspects of art into their regular lessons, increasing their understanding of how infusing art into the core curriculum makes for a more effective learning environment.

In regard to what skills and tools are appropriate for what grade: K-12th grades use graphite and/or colored pencils and watercolor paints along with developing art vocabulary and critiquing their own work; 7th-12th grades add in acrylic paint; and 9th-12th grades add in soft pastels or oil paints along with critiquing each other’s work. All levels use measuring tools, templates and models to draw more realistically what they see. Students learn how to use measuring and drawing or painting tools safely and effectively using template, photo or object models. Students use these drawing skills to create illustrative work that relates to the core curriculum. The artwork can be botanical, anatomical, geographical or geological drawing in the sciences; geometric and perspective drawing in math; illustrations for stories in language arts; or illustrations of the variety of cultures and peoples for social studies. Examples of topics include Illustrating Local History, Geometric Shapes and Perspective, Botanical, Geological or Anatomical Drawing, Story Illustration, Drawing for Your Subject: Illustrating Poems or Stories, Drawing on Your Subject: Drawing a Self-Portrait and Writing an Autobiography; People of the World: Exploring Through Drawing, Places: Scenes from the World We Live In.

Arts Area and Grade Level Focus
Visual Arts—Drawing and Painting, K-12th grades.

Connections To Elements of Art/Principles of Design
Color, shape, form, space, value, balance and proportion are all emphasized in this integrated arts project. Students create artwork based on observations of actual objects and everyday scenes, gaining experience with line, color, shape/form, using shading and form to create the illusion of dimension and emphasizing value changes and varying tints and shades. They also use accurate proportions in their drawings. Careful observation of subject models and instruction on how to translate these observations graphically brings out some or all of these elements in every lesson.

Connections To Core Curriculum and Content Standards
Once teachers learn basic tool and observation skills and learn ways to impart these skills to students of all levels, the Art To The Core techniques can be used in any subject. Teachers use templates, tools and knowledge gained to guide students in producing core curriculum related artwork for future class projects. As learning occurs more rapidly when participants are engaged and actively involved in the learning process through the use of as many senses as possible, the lessons of the core subject are more likely to be retained when these techniques are used. The project invites both students and teachers to learn through exploration, collaboration and participation. The project engages students in learning the following visual arts content standards:

Kindergarten: Identifying the elements of art (line, color, shape/form) in the environment, emphasizing line, color, and shape/form and demonstrating beginning skill in the use of tools and processes.

1st Grade: Creating artwork based on observations of actual objects and everyday scenes.

2nd Grade: Creating a work art based on observations of objects and everyday scenes in daily life, emphasizing value changes.

3rd Grade: Demonstrating beginning use of basic tools skills (graphite pencils) and art-making processes.

4th Grade: Using accurate proportions to create an expressive portrait or a figure drawing or painting.

5th Grade: Using perspective in an original work of art to create a real or imaginary scene.

6th Grade: Using various observational drawing skills to depict a variety of subject matter, applying the rules of two-point perspective in creating a thematic work of art and creating a drawing, using varying tints and shades.

7th Grade: Developing increasing skill in the use of at least three different media.

8th Grade: Demonstrating an increased knowledge of technical skills in using more complex two-dimensional art media and processes and selecting a grouping of their own works of art that reflects growth over time and describe the progression.

9th – 12th Grades: Reviewing and refining observational drawing skills.

Steps and Tips
Step One: (10 minutes to 5 hours, depending on where pre-existing materials and templates are used or if you are creating your own) Picking Your Subject—Subject models can vary widely depending on the core curriculum topic. Choose your topic ahead of time so you can bring in models, photos or other illustrations for the class to work from. For example: bring rock samples for a class studying minerals; a picture of an Indian elephant for a class studying India; a gold miner panning for gold for California History; a bald eagle for U.S. History; or flowers and fungi for biology. You can also find pre-existing templates for some subjects through this program online through the Arts Council of Mendocino County website at

When working from an actual model, place the objects in front of the students to draw. When working from a photo or other illustration you can make line drawings of commonly understood shapes right over the picture (i.e. letters of the alphabet, number shapes or geometric shapes such as squares or triangles) or use a pre-existing template (see Supporting Resources).

Tip: Breaking your visual subject (or object) down into common shapes helps students see beyond their pre-conceived notions of what that subject/object looks like. If you ask a group of students to draw a hand you will have widely varying results. If you break the hand down into shapes and proportions using a template and lead the class through the drawing of a hand based on that template, checking each individuals work as you progress to help keep them on track, you will have more consistent results and a class of students who feel more competent and happier with their work.

Step Two: (5 minutes) The Tools of the Trade—The simplest lesson is working with graphite pencil and card stock. Ask the students to draw two small marks on a small piece of scratch paper in the top corner of their paper, one lightly drawn and the other heavy and dark, explaining/demonstrating to younger children how they need to use less pressure when drawing lightly. Then instruct the students to erase both of these marks. Point out that they can put a lot of power into erasing on heavy paper without it wrinkling or tearing as plain paper might. They observe that their dark line remains no matter how hard they erase but their light line usually is gone. Tell them that we start drawing lightly until we have a drawing that looks the way we want it to look, maintaining our ability to erase and redraw the parts that aren’t working for us. Assure them that they will be drawing dark lines later using the lighter drawing as a guide

Tip: Students have a better chance of accomplishing satisfying graphics if they can work with quality tools. Ideally that means working with professional art supplies. The most basic of these are artist pencils and erasers and good quality artist’s Bristol Board but a high quality #2 pencil with a quality add-on eraser and bright white card stock will work. When using art materials such as colored pencils, pastels, watercolor and/or acrylic paints, the quality of the materials is more critical to the results. Using inferior or “student grade” products can cause frustration and dissatisfaction with the final work. (see list of recommended materials in Tools and Materials section).

Step Three: (5–10 minutes) Learning To Use More Tools—Many art projects can benefit from using simple tools such as straight-edges/rulers to draw straight lines or circular objects like coins, plastic caps or stencils to draw circles. In this project, tool use is taught as an ongoing process. Rulers, calipers or improvised devices can be used for measuring models to achieve proper proportions. Blending stumps and chamois pieces or even tissues can be used for blending graphite for shading more developed drawings. Providing tools and instruction in using those tools allows students the greatest possibility for success in their project.

Students are learning how to use measuring, drawing or painting tools safely and effectively through using templates, photos or object models and creating artwork based on observations of actual objects and everyday scenes. Through this process, students begin to gain lasting skills in the use of tools and processes. Depending on the age of the students, rulers, calipers, grey scale value finders and proportional scales may be used. The age of the students also defines what terminology is used to describe what they are observing and how to translate that observation to paper. Elementary school students may better understand such descriptions as: “The top of the eye is a frown and the bottom of the eye is a smile.” Older students usually know what is meant when we say that the eye is “almond shaped.”

Tip: Younger or less experienced students usually need be instructed on how to hold a ruler firmly while running the pencil tip along one side to draw a straight line or how to draw around a plastic cap or inside of a stencil.

Step Four: (10-20 minutes) Shapes and Forms—To facilitate learning we break down the subject model into familiar shapes and forms. If you are working with a three-dimensional model rather than a photo or illustration, you will need to look at the model from the student’s perspective, keeping in mind, when you give them suggestions or direction, that you will not be able to see it exactly as they do from their angle. Ask students to identify and lightly draw the overall shape as they see it. Does it look more like a square or circle? Is it completely irregular? Does it resemble a letter, number or another familiar symbol? This encourages students to observe more closely. You can have students measure the object’s outside height and width and show them how to place small dots as “land marks” on their paper to keep their drawing proportionate. Then they lightly draw a more accurate outline of the object and lightly draw in any shapes they may see inside of that outline shape.

When working from a photo, illustration or template, start with pointing out the shapes that can be found in the subject. Instruct the students to start their drawing by lightly drawing these shapes on their paper to be used as a guide for drawing the subject. This can also be a good time to explain such things as why the back thigh of a lion is like a triangle with the widest part on top, because it needs more muscle in its hindquarters to push off with when sprinting after prey. Once they have lightly drawn the shapes that define different aspects of their subject, have the students lightly draw outlines of those parts that the shapes represent to come up with an outline of the subject (this could be connecting the oval of a body to the rectangle of neck on one end and the triangle of the thigh on the other end, etc.).

Tip: Draw along with your students with pencil on a larger piece of paper. Emphasize that when you are demonstrating you will have to draw dark, heavy lines so they can see them and that they should continue to draw lightly on their paper. Drawing on a chalk board or white board is not recommended as you will not be able to demonstrate tool techniques such as erasing or blending.)

Step Five: (2-5 minutes) Erasing—Once the students have a light outline drawn have them erase the guide shapes from their drawings, leaving only the lines that actually look like the subject.

Tip: It is important for the teacher or class assistant to continue to circulate around the classroom and to help students who are having difficulty so that they do not get left behind in this step-by-step process.

Step Six: (10-20 minutes) Adding the Details—Now guide students to lightly draw in details within the outline, pointing out where the details are located in the overall picture (like the eye is halfway between the top and bottom of the face) and continue to show how the students can identify familiar shapes in the subject (like the ear looks like half of a heart shape or the eye seen from the side looks like an ice cream cone laying on its side.) When students start adding details they are shown how to carefully observe the detail in their models and how to choose which details relate to significant aspects of the core subject at hand or to discern those details that might enhance the artistic merit of their drawing.

Step Seven: (10-20 minutes) Looking Closely And Refining the Drawing—With the outline and details all lightly drawn in, the students look at their work and erase any parts that don’t look like what they see. Using the remaining light lines as a guide, students draw darker more distinct lines to refine and complete their basic drawing. An emphasis can be put on how varying the width, thickness or dark and light values of the line can make a more interesting piece.

Options for Extended Lessons: (One to three or more class sessions)
• Students can add shading and form to create the illusion of dimension. Tools such as chamois cloths, blending stumps and kneaded erasers can be used with graphite work. Blending brushes can be used in paintings.
• Students can also be taught the basics of perspective to use in their original work of art if applicable in their subject matter.
• Students can continue on their drawing or painting, adding details and refining shading and/or adding color and then using a Gray Scale Value Finder (see Tools and Materials) to match values, or color wheel to mix colors in painting (emphasizing value changes and varying tints, shades).

Final Steps: (5-30 minutes) Reflection and Refinement—At the end of the project students complete core curriculum work that relates to their artwork. Sometimes this means labeling an illustration, sometimes creating the text or story line that will accompany the piece(s) of artwork. Students then are engaged in assessing their progress from the beginning of the project by selecting a grouping of their own works of art that reflects growth over time and describe the progression. As an ongoing process students and teacher will review and refine observational drawing skills as they continue to use these skills in future projects.

Tools and Materials
• Level One—Minimum: Good quality #2 pencil and Staples Card Stock White (
• Level Two—Basic: 2B Artist Graphite Pencils, Staedtler Mars Plastic Erasers and Beinfang Bristol Pads (
• Level Three—Advanced: Level Two Plus: 2H Artist Graphite Pencils, Ebony Pencils, Sanford Magic Rub Peel-Off Eraser Pencil, Gray Scale Value Finders, Proportional Scales, Chamois Cloths and Paper Blending Stumps ( and Plastic Calipers (
Additional Materials—Colored Pencil or Painting: Artist quality acrylic or watercolor paints, suggested brand: Winsor & Newton. Colored pencil, suggested brand: Prismacolor colored pencils (

Supporting Resources
Lion Shapes Drawing Template Handout
Lion Template Handout
Lioness Template Handout
Indian Elephant Starter Template For Younger Students Handout
Indian Elephant Template Handout
Indian Elephant Outline Handout
Indian Elephant Outline With Wrinkles Handout
• Janet Rayner website ( for examples of the artist’s work and a step-by-step “Creating an Oil Painting” ( and “Pastel Painting Slide Show” (

PowerPoint Presentations
Art To The Core-Bringing Drawing And Painting Into The Core Curriculum (Printable Handout)

Project Objectives & Habits of Mind
Objective One: Art To The Core first teaches students to develop craft. Students work with professional art supplies and not “student grade” supplies, learning how to get better results with good tools. You can draw a picture with a stick in the sand but a lasting piece of art is better achieved with good tools. Students learn how good quality pencils, erasers and paper can enhance their work and they learn how to achieve different effects using these tools. When using pastels watercolor or acrylic paints students learn how to use materials safely and efficiently. They learn not only the application of these tools but also how to care for them and make them last longer. Simple instructions such as not leaving brushes in water on their tips or not pressing the brush so hard on the paint surface that you bend the tip to the ferrule are two examples of how students learn to respect tools in a way that can make them last for years. They also learn how different materials can be used for different effects, many times integrating more than one medium in an art project, such as watercolor and colored pencil. Each medium has its own special properties to be explored. When working with pencil students may learn shading, shape, form and/or perspective. When working with color they learn how to mix, blend or place colors for different effects.

Objective Two: There is a strong emphasis on engaging and persisting in these lessons. Many young artists (a category that can apply persons of any age!) don’t know their potential and may limit what they attempt based on what they know they can do. Encourage them when they say, “I can’t do this,” to add the word “yet” to that sentence. It opens up the possibility of succeeding at something new. Explain that perseverance can help them accomplish things they can’t even imagine yet!

Objective Three: Through careful observation students learn how to stop and look at details in objects and models and then translate what they see onto paper or canvas. Most students start to look at the whole world with new eyes, noticing new colors, shapes and forms in everything around them. We make jokes about learning to see molecules in our classes because students are seeing details on a level most of them have never before been trained to notice. We are encouraging a careful study rather than a casual glance.

Making Learning Visible

Examples of Botanical Drawings, 7th Grade

Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
Learning leaf and plant structure is a very visual practice. Point out to younger students that leaves come in a variety of shapes. Older students can learn to identify details such as the difference between palmate (lower left drawing) and pinnate (top drawing) venation and label the illustrations. Even more advanced students will be able to use a key to identify the plants that the leaves came from using plant morphology. Botanical illustration is used in textbooks and plant guides. Plant drawings are also a popular theme for textile and other product design.


Examples of Dissection Paintings, 9th Grade

Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
In Science, dissection illustration is a classic learning tool. In this case, students learned how difficult it was to identify anatomical structures in actual tissue. This is a high school level project and students who elected not to work directly with hearts used paintings from textbook illustrations. Students went on to label their work and gained further understanding of the circulatory system. Anatomical illustration is used in textbooks and pamphlets that are distributed in physician’s offices. Scientific illustration is a well-respected career field.


Teaching Drawing Face Using Template, 9th-12th Grades



Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
I have seen drawing the human face using a template work from grades K-12 with great success. With younger children we generally use a child’s face as an example. The ability to add shading and form to the work usually increases with the age level. Younger students make an outline drawing. Older students may make the work more dimensional by adding more detail and shading. All age levels learn the basic proportions that make a face drawing more convincing and lay the foundation for drawing the human figure. In Social Studies, students can use drawings to explore the differences and similarities in people. In Language Arts, students can use drawings to illustrate a biography or as a springboard for a creative writing piece. Human illustration is also used in textbooks, novels, scientific illustration and advertising as well as fine art. Portrait drawing and painting is an ancient art form and is a respected career choice.


Examples of Face Drawings, 3rd Grade


High School Biology Students Creating Fungi Drawings, 9th-12th Grades


Examples of Botanical Drawings, 9th-12th Grades



Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
These fungi illustrations show how a botanical drawing lesson can be scaled up for students in 9th-12th grades. Students worked with calipers to get exact measurements of their specimens and used graphite, colored pencil and watercolor to achieve detailed and accurate scientific illustrations then went on to identify the phylum of their specimens and labeled their works. Botanical illustration is used in textbooks and plant guides. Fungi drawings are also a popular theme for textile and other product design.


Examples of Animal Drawings, Lions, 2nd Grade



Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
These lion drawings are a good example of how templates can aid even elementary school students in understanding proportions and anatomy. The same templates are used for any grade level. The ability to accurately portray the lion increases with experience. While working on these drawings students learned about the predators strong hindquarters that allow them to sprint after prey. They learned about the carnivore’s sharp teeth and claws and even about the brush end of the tail being useful for brushing away flies. Pointing out anatomical aspects while working on the drawing reinforces learning. The illustrations can be labeled or used along with a narrative. These students placed their lions in a jungle habitat. Early humans drew animal likenesses on cave walls. Animal illustration is used in textbooks, novels, scientific illustration, advertising as well as fine art.


Examples of Bald Eagle Drawings, US History, 5th Grade



Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
The bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of America because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks. These U.S. History students chose the American Bald Eagle as their subject. The first part of lesson focused on general bird anatomy with an emphasis on the structure of the wing. The students also learned the differences between claw and talon and the beaks of predatory birds and birds that eat insects or seeds. Pointing out these physical characteristics aids in the execution of the drawing and strengthens the cross-curricular connections between art, science and social studies. Students in 5th-12th grades better understand complex wing structure. For younger students, drawing just the eagle head may be more manageable. Many of the students connected their work with other icons by embellishing their work with American flags. They learned about emblems and symbols and how they relate to our society. History books are rife with illustrations. The eagle itself has become a ubiquitous symbol in our culture and is seen in advertising, textile design, logos and fine art.


Examples of Rock and Mineral Drawings, Science, 2nd Grade


Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
Learning how to see and translate structural shapes was a key starting point with this lesson. These relatively young students saw that rocks, crystals, minerals and mineraloids come in a variety of shapes, textures and colors. Students who chose to draw the crystal were instructed on the use of a ruler as a straight edge guide. All were shown how to observe closely the details, shapes and forms of their models. These budding geologists finished their works by drawing their subjects in a landscape where they imagined they would be found. Older students can learn to identify details and classify and label their subjects. Noticing the differences in structures can also help in the understanding of the natural forces that formed them. Geological illustration is used in textbooks and rock and mineral guides.

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