In this lesson, student artists are introduced to totem animals: animals that guide or protect. The decide to draw a portrait of either themselves or a loved one as an animal. In this first lesson they roughly draw their chosen animals on a large piece of paper.
Students will be able to:
- draw the basic shapes of their animal.
- draw large.
- choose an animal that has characteristics similar to the portrait subject.
Students will be working independently.
Have materials set up in a way that is easy to pass out, see, and select from.
Handouts & Photocopies:
- L1. TotemAnimals (students can share, 1 per table area)
10M, INSPIRATION IMAGE
LOOK AND DISCUSS AN ART PIECE THAT INTRODUCES SOME OF THE LESSON CONCEPTS
Project the inspiration image where students can see it. Give students a moment to study it silently, then begin a brief discussion with the phrase, “What can we find?”. Paraphrase what students say for the benefit of the class, being careful to remain neutral, then ask “What else can we find?”. Alternately, allow them to draw or write what they notice on a blank piece of paper or in a sketchbook.
- Unknown Nisga’a artist, ‘Mask’. ca. 1860.
- This is by an unknown Indigenous artist from the Pacific Northwest, and is made using human hair, paint, cedar bark, and wood. It was probably used in a ceremony.
Note on using the information above: As your students participate in a conversation around this artwork, it may occasionally be helpful to provide them with additional or contextual information. This information can and should be imparted at the teacher’s discretion.
The point of this discussion time is to have students learn and add onto each other’s thoughts. By remaining neutral and simply repeating what students say you allow students to do the heavy mental lifting and also create an environment where there is no wrong answer, fostering creativity and mental risk-taking.
5M, INTRODUCTION VIDEO
WATCH THE INTRODUCTION VIDEO & CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING
Check for understanding by asking, “Who was listening closely that can sum up what we are doing today?” Make sure that student artists can list all the steps and clarify anything that needs clarifying.
It is o.k. if students want to include more than one animal to make a family portrait, or include portraits of their friends.
Show the packets and tell them that they can draw animals that they already have in their mind, but if they want help thinking of one, the packets have some photos of animals and the characteristics NW Indigenous people generally ascribed to them.
Draw the final drawing large and loose. Don’t worry about details. Remind students that they will be painting, so details will get lost.
FOCUS ON GETTING THE KIDS EXCITED ABOUT AND FLESHING OUT THEIR ANIMAL
The students work independently on their work as the teacher circulates. Foster strong work habits by commenting on student artists who are focused on their work as well as student artists who seem to be pushing themselves to try new things.
At this point, student artists are first deciding on their (or a loved one’s) animal, At this point, walk around and focus the conversation on WHY they are choosing the animal that they are—what qualities do they see similar in themselves (or their loved one?). They should be re-drawing their animal large on a sheet of paper. Remind them not to do details, just to get the basic shapes or parts down. Younger students artists may have a hard time drawing big, so really talk a lot about how large the animals and shapes are that you see as you move around the classroom.
STUDENTS PRESENT WORKS IN PROGRESS AND DISCUSS THE ARTISTIC DECISIONS THAT THEY MADE
Sharing should work as follows:
- Student stands by their work. A teacher should hold it, or place it on an easel.
- The student presents their work, answering What they made, How they made it, and Why they made the decisions that they did. When they are done they ask, “Any comments or questions?” and can take responses from the audience.
- A note on responses: it is o.k. if an audience member questions or wants clarification from the artist. It is also o.k. if an audience member makes suggestions. But it must be done in a kind, thoughtful, and respectful way.
- Always end the conversation by asking the class to give the artist a compliment.
Depending on the teacher’s style of classroom management, it might be helpful to only choose and train a few kids to clean. The rest of the class can be busy with the presentation. Make sure to train these helpers well in advance so that you aren’t left with a messy room.
Clean-up times will vary with materials; get to know your class and allow 5-10 minutes depending on how efficient they are and whether or not the material was messy.
- Monitor students to make sure they are drawing large—they should be using as much space as makes sense to their composition. This will be very hard for some students, but keep encouraging it. Tell them that the smaller the animals, the more difficult it will be for them to complete the next steps, including painting.
- Drawing background details or an environment (when done with the animals!) is ok! As long as the shapes are big.
Early finishers can flip their drawing over and on the finish the following sentence: I made a portrait of _________________. I chose a _______________ to represent him/her because ____________, _________, and _______________.
This project is free to access, but after the first lesson, you will have to create a free account and enroll in the course. After you create an account and enroll, the project can be accessed from the ‘artroom’ tab at the top of the page