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.
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.