Lesson Plan: John James Audubon and Texture Techniques

I love drawing birds. Oddly, it isn’t something I would think of if someone asked: “what do you like to draw?” But, if you look at my portfolio birds appear over and over again. Well, birds and squirrels ! I love squirrels too! Birds have easy-to-draw bodies, and not unlike butterflies, if you get the coloring wrong, they can still look fantastic. I find that a drawing assignment for students wherein they have to draw birds is always successful. Furthermore, I find it helps my students to bridge the gap between drawing what they know, and drawing what they see.

My 6th grade students created these sweet birds during a recent unit on John James Audubon. We created an interdisciplinary unit by connecting the work of Audubon to nature conservation and recording. . .My students got a huge kick out of the fact that Audubon would sometimes kill the birds in order to observe them more closely!
While typical Audubon projects would focus on watercolors, I decided to focus on oil pastels. My students tend to be heavy-handed with materials and I think they will really struggle with applying watercolors so that they look like watercolors and not tempera paint. Notice, I said “they will struggle” because we will climb that mountain, but I want them to have more control over their drawing skills before we get to that place.
So, instead, we used a medium they really seem to like: oil pastels. For the first day of this project, we all worked on creating texture using four different shading techniques: blending, impasto, hatching, and fragmenting. Each student created a texture “cheat sheet” they could reference later in the project. Their final project was to observe a photo of a real bird and to draw it as realistically as possible. They were required to incorporate at least one texture technique into their composition.
My students really loved this project. It was a real success for them. As an added bonus: this class is a inclusion classroom and we had several students with specific abilities. Several of these students haven’t been able to participate in art in the past (I wasn’t their teacher!), but were able to fully participate in this project. Awesome!
Here is the Lesson Plan:
Here is a video I made -using my Doc Camera- of me making the texture cheat sheet in class. I edited it for the web. My absent students were able to use this video to catch up!
Here is a mash-up of several presentations from slideshare that I pushed together to make what I needed:
Here is a presentation demonstrating several student exemplars.
Audubon birds in processhttp://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=audubonbirdsin-process-110828130313-phpapp01&stripped_title=audubon-birds-in-process&userName=ksumatarted

View more presentations from ksumatarted.

The format for these lesson plans is one that I use for my school. I did not create this lesson plan, so while you are welcome to use it, please be careful to not violate copyrights when sharing.
**you are welcome to share this lesson plan on your website or blog but please credit Artful Artsy Amy as the source. Please do not re-publish this lesson plan for profit or for a grade.**




5 thoughts on “Lesson Plan: John James Audubon and Texture Techniques”

  1. Hi Amy, we studied Audubon a while back but I sent the work home and forgot to photograph, though I posted about it here: http://plbrown.blogspot.com/2010/06/wild-animals-in-art-room.html I had discovered that one my students' father owned a taxidermy shop, and we were brought several animals ( 2 pheasants, a fisher, and a white fox) for life drawing – it was an amazing experience for the kids (though it did creep me out just a tiny bit). Since we know that Audubon not only stuffed but arranged his animals to fit on the paper (hence the bent flamingo neck since he drew life-size – I was fascinated to learn that) it seemed like a great idea, and since so many of my students have been hunting, they weren't as creeped out as me!

  2. Ms. Amy, I loved this idea! I'm an ed major at Southern Oregon University and we're focusing on particular artists and developing lessons around them. This has given me a great many ideas (and you have been dully credited for the inspiration). I really love that you include modifications for those with special needs; i feel they are often excluded when art is a process everyone can enjoy! Thank you!

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