Pumpkin Still Life: Observational Drawing (October 2012)

This pumpkin drawing project was inspired by the same three pumpkins that I used for a tissue paper collage activity with my younger Art Club group (please click here to view this previous post). The older children that I teach (aged 4.5 – 6 years) love to draw, so I decided to set them a pumpkin drawing challenge that would really test their powers of observation.

I set up a ‘Still Life’ for the children with three pumpkins of varying shapes and colours placed within a round wicker basket which I had lined with a striped cloth for contrast.

To ensure that they would have a good view of the pumpkins I decided to place the basket on the floor instead of a table. The children knelt on the ground and used drawing boards resting on aerobic steppers borrowed from the gym, from where they could easily look over the basket edge to see the contents within.

When doing observational drawing projects with young children I prefer not to direct their drawing too much as I think it is far more rewarding (for them and for me!) to allow them to interpret the subject in their own way.

Rather than teaching them ‘how to draw’ the objects, I start off the session by discussing the different shapes, colours and patterns they can see, such as the striped markings on the yellow and green pumpkin, and the criss-cross lines of the woven wicker basket. By drawing their attention to these elements before starting to draw, the children are then free to find their own ‘language’ for drawing them.

On this occasion, I suggested that the children start by drawing the object closest to them – the basket – and then move on to the pumpkins, drawing the one in front first, before adding the ones partially hidden behind. I also demonstrated how to blend colours together. Oil pastels are great for mixing colours on the paper to create texture. The children had a go at rubbing with a finger wrapped in kitchen paper, to soften and blend the colours. My final piece of advice as they started to draw was to “look closely” and “draw what you see”!

The resulting drawings are fascinating as they reveal how the children interpreted the same group of objects in such different ways. Some drew the pumpkins as if looking into the basket from above, while others drew the wavy lines of the basket-weave over the top of their pumpkins to represent how they were partially hidden behind the sides of the basket (see above).

A couple of children spent ages filling the spaces between their pumpkins with brown and green stripes to represent the cloth, so that their pumpkins are almost lost within the pattern (see above). Others added a horizon line to their drawing, which gives the impression that their baskets are sitting on the ground rather than floating in space (see below).

It is also interesting to see how the children created texture by using different marks and combining different shades of browns and yellows to depict the wicker basket.

To see all of the Pumpkin Still Life drawings, please click through the Gallery:

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