Non-Objective Circle Design

Submitted by: Ken Schwab, formerly of Leigh High School, San Jose CA
Unit: Design - Non-objective Art
Lesson Plan: Circular "mandala" - colored pencil
Grade Level: High School - Suitable for grades 7 through 12
Ken's Web Site:

See Middle School adaptation on Bunki Kramer's Web Site: Los Cerros Middle School



  • The student will be able to create a nonobjective design from a magazine photo using a view finder. The composition will use the Principles of design and will be enlarged to 11" (28 cm) in diameter. By using colored pencils the drawing will use layers to recreate the colors in the magazine picture.

  • Find beauty in unsuspected places.

  • Enlarge a magazine image.

  • Develop skills in using colored pencils.

Viewfinders - assorted sizes of circular windows (scrap white paper and Compasses.), Drawing Pencils., Kneaded Rubber Erasers., Colored Pencils.., white Drawing Paper. 80# (about 12" (30.5 cm) square), circle templates (about 10" or 11" - (26 or 28 cm), Construction Paper. frames (or circular mat boards), X-acto Knives., Newsprint., Masking Tape., Graphite Sticks., Rulers..


kenpencil1.jpg (41579 bytes)      kenpencil2.jpg (65930 bytes)     kenpencil3.jpg (61676 bytes)
Click on the images for full size.


Assorted magazines - National Geographic. magazines are good sources for Artists.

Creating Mandalas. - Fincher introduces the history and ritual use of mandalas in cultures all over the world; offers guidance in choosing art materials, techniques, and colors for the creation of personal mandalas; and discusses the symbolism of shapes, colors, numbers, and motifs that may appear in mandalas.



1. Review the Five Modes of Design - use examples of each and show them the progression
1. Naturalism - (photo realistic)
2. Realism - (representational)
3. Stylized - (simplification of details)
4. Abstraction - (distortion and overlapping to create new shapes)
5. Nonobjective- (no recognizable object, elements producing the principles of design

2. Discuss the elements and principles of design. Give examples and use nonobjective design to show the principles of good composition. Discuss what a non-objective design is and why they are produced. Critique examples.

3. Review use of viewfinder and aid students in selecting appropriate images.

4. Demonstrations of layering technique using colored pencils.


kenpencil4.jpg (44154 bytes) To the students:

This is a project that will test you to create a design using the Nonobjective Mode of Design. Nonobjective is the type of design that is full of colors, shapes, lines, values, forms, textures, using the Principle of design to make a composition that has NO recognizable subject or objects. It instead relies on the elements and principles of design to create a balanced interesting composition having a center of interest, directional movement, rhythmic shapes, variety of size, balance of values and colors.

By using a paper finder we are going to look for and find a great composition to draw with colored pencil. Each composition must have the principles of good design and a use of color. The pencil will be applied with layers creating a smooth blend of colors that will recreate the picture you find.



kenpencil5.jpg (42337 bytes)1. Make a few circles with a compass on a piece of paper. Make them different sizes and leave an inch of space between them. Cut out the circles and cut out the separate circle areas from the larger piece of construction paper using an X-acto knife on a cutting board.

2. Look in magazines for interesting shapes, colors, contrast of values, variety of sizes, an interesting area off center, gradations of colors and values. Still make sure that you can’t really see what the picture is but the design that you see with the finder. Look for a composition that with the finder over the picture reveals a design. If it has all the principles of good composition then tape the finder over it and save. Find at least three.

3. Place the finder over the picture so that it will be showing the composition through the circle and blocking out the rest. Choose at least 3 that you feel are good.

4. After a small critique, select one that is the best and enlarge it to newsprint with a grid. (see-demo) The circle will be 11" (28 cm) in diameter. Use a circle template 11" (28 cm) wide and on a 12"x18" (30.5 x 46 cm) newsprint paper, make a circle. Make a square around it with a ruler, find the middle and draw a line dividing it in both directions making a cross in the middle. Do the same thing on the small finder picture.

5. Enlarge the most important lines by using the grid as a way of keeping good proportion. When finished with the enlarging -- graphite the back and transfer to good drawing paper 80# to make the final drawing.

6. Observe the demonstration on layering the pencil to produce different colors. See how white pencil used lightly will blend layers together. Practice using soft light layers of colored pencils to achieve soft gradations and different colors. Always start with the lightest colors first and then go to the darker ones. Use a colorless blender or white pencil to blend the layers together. Practice the colors you need on the side of the paper outside the circle.

7. Set up your Drawing Boards. to have 3 pieces of newsprint as a pad, drawing paper and the circle cut out on the board. See the picture.

8. Select colors that will be used and follow a sequence of layers to get certain results. This can be done outside the circle on the white drawing paper. When ready, begin the drawing.



1. Did student effectively employ the elements and principles of design in creating a non-objective work of art?

2. Did student employ layering technique with colored pencils to duplicate the colors and textures of a magazine image visible through a view finder. Did student enlarge the shapes, colors, and textures to fill a 10" or 11" (28 cm) circle. (Bunki Kramer used a 10"(25 cm) circle - Ken Schwab used an 11" (28 cm) circle)



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