Creative Creature Lesson

Creative Creature Lesson


Looking for an engaging observational drawing lesson? This creative creature art experience is one of my favorites because it pushes the kids to look closely at detail while also using their imagination.

Predictably, some of your students will be able to easily draw a realistic image from observation.  But what about the students who don’t yet know how to “see”? Our job is to guide all of our students into a growth mindset while developing skill and confidence. Using the resources below, you can help make this happen for your students.

Visual and Creative Inspiration

Vladimir Stankovic, the artist behind the beautiful, Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology, creatively illustrates hidden or mystical animals such as the Yeti or Lochness Monster. I use this work as the launch for our lesson and also as a way to dig deeper into Cryptozoology. The class discussion includes folklore and stories told about these legendary creatures in different cultures around the world. We explore how environment, physical characteristics, and behaviors of these hidden animals might impact societal beliefs.  Our conversation ends with the cryptids once thought myth, which turned out to be real.

In addition to many creative, fantastical creatures of Vladimir Stankovic, I particularly love his animated series on invented insects he calls Cephalopodopetra.  Check out some of his creepy cool animations below.



Growth Mindset

An essential objective of this art experience is getting your students to reflect on their work. The video on the left is the best example of growth mindset I have seen.  How many times have you said, draw what you see and observe, not what your memory thinks it sees.  This video demonstrates how important peer critique is to learning and growing.  Although the students in the video are younger than my middle school kids, the lesson is just as relevant.

The Studio Experience

I start our studio experience by having the kids do visual research on different types of creature features. Simultaneously, the students document the species and characteristics of each.  After providing a variety of scientific illustrations for additional observational drawing reference, I ask the students to come up with a draft of their new invented creature by combining features of different animals.  We model the peer critique from the growth mindset video above and then move ahead using black paper and colored pencils.  I love using metallic colored pencils because it gives that insect iridescence feel.

But don’t let the art experience end with studio work, utilize artist statements by encouraging the kids to describe their new species, where it lives, and how it fits into the life cycle.

If you can fit it in . . .

If time allows, I try and include the work of scientific animator Drew Barry.  You might consider asking your students  . .  How do you illustrate the unseeable?  How do artists use knowledge to inform visual expression?

I’m not sure if Drew Barry is more scientist or more artist.  Either way, his work is amazing.

Art Room Visuals Made Simple

Art Room Visuals Made Simple

bob ross creativity

This poster was inspired by my students obsession with the art legend, Bob Ross.




I’m really lucky.  My students hang on to every word I passionately speak on whatever amazing topic I have planned for the day. Yeah right. No matter how much our students look like they are listening and sitting quietly, their minds wander.  In reality, it is more likely that at any given moment at least a quarter of my class is dreaming about creating Pokémon Go club or what they’re eating for lunch.

In an attempt to increase my odds that essential information is repeated, (without verbally repeating), I’ve been creating graphic posters for classroom management and reinforcement of concepts. Thanks to a tip in the Art Teacher group on Facebook, I was introduced to the infographic maker, Piktochart.  Start a poster from scratch or begin with a template, change colors, and move around objects to customize.  Upload your own images or use the extensive graphic library available.  I’ve even outlined my curriculum in a poster format and with one click, used it as a slide presentation on curriculum night.  While Piktochart is free to use and download creations, the reasonably priced educator plan makes the hi-resolution image upgrade worth every penny.

Do you have some classroom visuals that work?  Please share in the comments!

The United Tables of Art

The United Tables of Art

united tables of art

The best-followed rules in my classroom have been the ones that the kids develop themselves.  Last year, I had a group of 7th-grade students who were spending more time disagreeing on their table responsibilities than getting their work done.  Rather than imposing a teacher solution, I just said: “I’m giving you ten minutes to figure out how to work together and share responsibilities equally.”  Those words triggered the humorous, student-generated, and effective  . . . “The United Tables of Art”.

The Constitution for the United Tables of Art

We the people, in order to form a more perfect art union, combine these tables and form the United tables of Art. A government made for the people.

10 Basic Laws and Ideas

  1. John is Judicial.
  2. Albert is executive.
  3. Nate and Blake are Legislative, Nate is House of Rep., Blake is Senate.
  4. All controversy is to be voted on.
  5. Treason is punishable.
  6. Treaties with others must be signed.
  7. Bill of Rights will be followed.
  8. All possible treaties will be taken care of.
  9. Military will be led by Nate, Blake, Albert.
  10. Freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Founding Fathers,  x________

I thought it was so smart that they figured this out.  I love the equal powers of government described within the document.  They also finished out the year working together better than they had all semester.  I will even say this was a cross-curricular learning experience.  If only I had planned it that way!

We can learn a lot from our students – empower them to find their own solutions to their problems.

How do you set up your classroom rules?

Three Fun Ways to Animate in Photoshop

Three Fun Ways to Animate in Photoshop

3 fun ways to animate in Photoshop

In my 7th and 8th grade Digital Media classes, I incorporate animation into our Photoshop experience. In the tutorials below, frame animation, video overlay, and rotoscope techniques are demonstrated.  Once the students experiment with each technique, they choose one method as a focus to create a finished composition.

Frame Animation

student work

Video Overlay

Student work


Student work

Student work

Check out this rotoscope version of a "Twenty-One Pilots" music video below. It was a great inspiration for my students!

These are also great techniques for you to use when demonstrating art concepts. What other techniques have you seen to teach animation?