The first thing that I do in my classes every year is introduce the elements of art. I used to have the students take notes on the elements and then do projects based on each element. However, I have found that students seem to grasp the concepts better if they are introduced to most if not all of the elements first, then be expected to use them in a project that I set out for them.
For my traditional art class, I give the students a short introduction to each of the elements of art, and then have them do a short activity in their sketchbooks. For my graphic design class, I have the students do very similar activities in the Adobe Illustrator program. These activities generally take a class period or so to complete, and they are as follows:
Line: A line can be very expressive! Draw 20 different lines, all must look different. Once finished, go back and name each of them according to what they look like.
Shape: Geometric vs organic. Divide the page into four squares. In the first two, create some kind of composition with only geometric shapes. In the last two, create a composition with only organic shapes.
Value: Create a value scale. Draw a rectangle that is 1” x 7”, then divide it into 7 parts. Using drawing pencils, black out the last square with the darkest pencil (6B or ebony). Then move to the 1st square and use the lightest pencil to make the lightest gray possible, moving the pencil in cross hatching marks to make the grey lineless. Then move to the other square, making each a bit darker than the previous. When finished, hold it out to arms length and make sure that each square looks different than the previous one.
Form: Set a circular form on the table (in the past I have used balls, light bulbs, or pairs). Set a light on one side of the form so that there is a definite highlight on one side. Draw. Note that there are highlights and shadows and that all of the values from the scale on the previous page ought to be represented
Texture: Use different colored crayons or colored pencils to rub textures around the room, outside, or in the hallway onto a plain white piece of typing paper. Cut these textures out and make some kind of composition on the sketchbook page.
Space: Cut out magazine images that represent each of the following techniques for showing depth: overlap, diminishing size, position, and linear perspective.
Color: Make a 12 piece color wheel using quality colored pencil that will mix well (I use Prismacolor). ONLY use the primary colors, this way students need to actually mix to find the colors.
As a last hurrah to the elements unit, I have the kids create a color wheel using colored icing and Nilla wafers. It may be a little juvenile, but most students enjoy the unexpected treat in the art room!
How do you teach the elements of art? Comment below!