Student View

Draw With Intention

Use what you’ve learned about reading art to create a drawing with a symbolic narrative

You’ve seen how artists like Hans Holbein use objects to communicate a narrative. Now it’s your turn to create a still life arrangement using objects with personal significance. Then you’ll make a monochromatic drawing with a narrative. 

Step 1: Plan Your Composition

Find inspiration by looking at iconic works of art.

How do you create an artwork with meaning a viewer can interpret? The choices you make about your technique, your color scheme, and your subject must be intentional. Begin by brushing up on your art observation skills. Look carefully at The Ambassadors on page 6. Consider the symbols Holbein uses to create a narrative. Then think about how you might use symbols in your own work. You’ll select three to five objects to create a still life arrangement. Choose items that have symbolic meaning that is personal for you but that any viewer can understand. For example, clocks usually symbolize the passage of time. But for you, a clock might represent your dislike for early mornings. Make a few loose, gestural sketches to work out your ideas. Be sure to think about how your chosen objects relate to one another. Discuss your ideas with your classmates to ensure that your chosen symbols come across as intended. 

Tip: Keep your preliminary sketches quick and simple.

Step 2: Develop Your Drawing

Create a preliminary sketch.

Once you’ve decided which objects you’re going to include in your drawing, create a dynamic arrangement. Then begin sketching your composition with pencil on your final drawing paper. Don’t be afraid to take risks! You might try cropping your drawing in an unexpected way as Georgia O’Keeffe does in her painting on page 5. Or try incorporating implied action as in David Hockney’s work on page 7. As you plan your drawing, focus on capturing the major forms first. Add the details once the composition is set. 

Tip: Include diagonal lines to add depth to your drawing.

Step 3: Add Color

Add color to your drawing.

Once you’ve completed your preliminary sketch, begin working with colored pencils. Choose a monochromatic color scheme (hues of a single color) to set the mood in your work. A blue color scheme might seem sad or calm, and a yellow one might seem cheerful. Start with the highlights—the lightest areas—and gradually add darker tones. Layer colors on top of one another to develop a wider range of hues. 

How did the student who made the drawing on the left use texture to create emphasis? What mood did the student who made the drawing on the right create by using a red palette?

Try to keep your techniques consistent throughout the drawing. Then, if you want to create emphasis, you can alter your technique to draw the viewer’s eye to a part of the composition. When you’re finished, ask a friend to interpret the narrative in your work. Is his or her interpretation what you intended?

Tip: Don’t forget to give your drawing a title!

Ask a classmate to interpret the narrative in your drawing. What is the narrative in the drawing on the left?

Prepared by: Peter Yuscavage, Jersey City Arts, Jersey City, New Jersey

Back to top
videos (1)
Lesson Plan (1)