Art Lesson Plan: Blind Contour Drawing from Life - Watercolor

Blind Contour Drawing from Life

Submitted by: Stephanie Corder, AZ Academy~ U.S. Virgin Islands
UNIT: Drawing - Science Integration
Lesson: Orchid in Blind Contour Format - with watercolor washes
Grade: Elementary (Shown - first grade - adaptable to higher grades)



The goal is to introduce the traditional discipline of drawing. Students will draw and compare blind contour and contour drawings and then they will create a formal blind contour drawing to complete in watercolor resist format.


Big Ideas:

Students learn that careful observation results in better drawing.

Artists use nature as inspiration for their work.


Objectives: Student will:

  • Use nature as source of ideas

  • Experience blind and semi blind contour drawing - compare

  • Develop observational drawing skills

  • Discover oil pastel (or crayon) resist

  • Experiment with wet 'n wet watercolor

  • See how artists use contour lines


1Drawing Paper. (approx. 9" x 24" [23 x 61 cm] - or desired size)
Drawing Pencils.
Blinders (Posterboard. squares to cover pencil and hand)
Watercolor Paper.19x25" (48.3 x 63.5 cm) cut vertically in half
White Oil Pastels. (or white Crayons.)
Watercolor Paint. - Brushes. - water bottle



Organic shape
Contour line - blind contour
Semi-blind contour
Wet in wet
Warm / cool colors



Make 8" or 9" (20 or 23 cm) square blinders from Posterboard.. Laminate these for repeated uses. Put hole in center for pencil. Make at least enough for one class (with a few extras).

Bring in some live plants or flowers. Potted flowers may holdup best.



Marvin Bartel’s Learning to Draw from Observation
(note: Marvin suggest starting blind contour with third grade)

Marvin Bartel’s Learning to Draw


Follow Up Activity:

Show work of Georgia O'Keeffe. - flowers


Explain to children they are going to behave like a scientist - paying very close attention to what they are drawing - watching every little curve and bend - following every leaf -every petal. (Maybe draw a flower quickly (from memory) to show what a contour drawing is NOT). Show the process of placing card over hand and drawing VERY slowing. Tell them they are waking up the right side of the brain and this will help them draw things better in the future, too.


Have students slowly trace the lines and edges of the flower with their finger in the air.

Flowers work well for this lesson. Follow-up with an activity learning about an artist who closely observed nature/flowers. Students like Georgia O'Keeffe. Learn the parts of the flower and discuss plant life cycle (science activity).



  1. Provide students with half sheet of 19"x 25" (48.3 x 63.5 cm) paper cut vertically in half, blinders, and white crayon or oil pastel. Have students draw the flower with pencil through hole in blinder - They can outline with white when finished (as oil pastel may be too short to put through blinder)

  2. Instruct them to draw the orchid with their hand covered - go very slowly - watching every detail. Taking care that it extends from the top to the bottom of the paper. "Fill the page in a beautiful way."

  3. Draw a second flower - this time without the blinder - but taking the same care to draw slowly - looking at the flower more than the paper - this is semi blind.

  4. Talk about the two drawings. "Which one do you like best? Select BEST drawing to finish with watercolors.

  5. Go over all lines with white oil pastels (or white crayon) - press hard. Write name within drawing.

  6. Spritz paper with water bottle to encourage watercolor bleeds, and have them paint ending with NO white space left. Encourage use of warm and color colors for contrast - and using colors next to each other (related colors - color families).

Notes from Stephanie:

These turned out gorgeous! I ended up deciding to send them home as an additional Mother’s Day gift, because they were so beautiful! I had them hide their names within their drawing rather than write it big across the top.



1. What is blind contour drawing? What is semi-blind?

2. How does blind contour drawing help us see things and draw objects better?

3. What happens when we paint over crayon (or oil pastels)? Why?

4. What happens when we paint on wet paper? What kind of colors look best painted next to each other? What happens when warms and cools mix together?

3. Name an artist who worked from nature and used contour lines in her work. What did she do to "fill the space in a beautiful way"? How is our work like hers? How is it different?


Assessment: (Modified Rubric from Marianne Galyk)


Assessment Rubric

Student Name:

Class Period:


Date Completed:

Circle the number in pencil that best shows how well you feel that you completed that criterion for the assignment.




Needs Improvement

Rate Yourself

Teacher’s Rating

Criteria 1 – Shows close observation using blind contour /semi-blind contour







Criteria 2 – Uses colors effectively to paint composition. Knows warm / cool colors







Criteria 3 – Understands vocabulary - blind - semi-blind - resist - wet 'n wet -warm/cool







Criteria 4 – Effort: took time to develop drawing? (Didn’t rush.) Good use of class time?







Criteria 5 – Craftsmanship – Care is taken to complete? Skillful use of the art tools & media?







Total Possible: 20








This is a process-oriented project. They key that really clicked the lesson into place for me and my students was when I added the step of experimenting with yarn lines on the tabletop first before the actual activity. The tabletop became their rough draft sketchbook of ideas, which helped them be more successful and comfortable with the media when they did the final project.



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