Monthly Mentor

Patricia Leavy (November)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Patricia Leavy, PhD is an independent scholar and bestselling author. She was formerly Associate Professor of Sociology, Chair of Sociology & Criminology, and Founding Director of Gender Studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. She has published over twenty-five books, earning commercial and critical success in both nonfiction and fiction, and her work has been translated into numerous languages. She is internationally recognized as a leader in arts-based research and research methodology. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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« Envisioning Studio Thinking | Main | Land art, Landscape, and the Environment »

September 16, 2016

Artists and Educators Observe

From: Holly Bess Kincaid

As a young girl, my mother was delighted when I would make interesting observations about the world around us. I would notice the small insects, patterns of light and shadows, or the shapes within clouds. As artists we observe the world around us adding to the creative image bank within our minds.

Each year, I begin to get to know my new group of artists by focusing on the Studio Habit - Observe.


Students start the journey into art drawing from observation and using blind contour drawing, continuous line drawing, and contour line drawing challenges. The quick drawing challenges ask students to really look at the object they are drawing and try to notice details they may have never noticed before. Students love drawing the profile view of their shoe and usually find a high level of success with their results.


Students can use the quick observational drawing practice to learn how blend colored pencils while drawing a fall leaf. When I taught in Texas, my students loved drawing from fall leaves that were mailed from a friend in the Northeast Region while their leaves where in peak. The fragile quality of the leaves and subtle changes of colors inspired students as they explored ways to blend pencil hues to capture essence of the leaf.


Another great challenge in observation can come from drawing a crumbled magazine page. Students were introduced to colored pencil blending techniques first, and then chose a magazine image to crumble and draw. The folds of the page formed cubist like images making for an interesting result. 


As students draw, the art teacher can observe work habits and assess the skills students possess at the beginning of the year. Art teachers must continue to observe, assess, adapt and differentiate learning for our students while guiding them to their personal successes.  Being observant, teachers can assess the skills needed, plan to incorporate new strategies, and guide students to add techniques into their practice. 

How do you help your students to be more observant artists in your classroom?




These are some really great project ideas. I have always felt that art is not in any way related solely to an artists ability to create a pleasing image. Art is, in truth, the development of the ability to SEE the world. Most people merely look at the world around them, taking in only as much information as they need, to make it through their day. The Artist ( I use the capital "A" in order to differentiate from someone who only is able to create an image) is able to see not only what they need, but also to see those things that set the individual elements of the world apart from all others, and to be able to see the value in that differentiation. This person need not be a maker of art in order to be an Artist, though.

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