Art Teacher Talk

Drawing Methods for Guaranteed Success

Teach your middle or high school kids to learn how to draw using these methods for guaranteed success. Do I sound confident? Yes I do. Why am I so confident? Because I know this scaffolded method of teaching drawing works.

“Can everyone learn how to draw?”

My answer is a resounding YES.




But how?

With 36 plus kids in a class of all skill levels, how do I get everyone to be successful at drawing?

Most Importantly: Dispel the myth that only certain people can draw. You know, only the talented people.

(Pssst. Spoiler alert. Not true.)

Here’s how you do it.

Break it down.

Slow it down.

Scaffold the skills.

Keep it small.

Keep the deadlines tight.

Explain the WHY behind the process for each skill and WHY that skill is important.


Everyone learns how to draw really well.

I promise, it works.

Learn How to Draw using these Methods for Guaranteed Success

For 12 years I have been teaching drawing the exact same way. To 12 completely different groups of 100+ students from the ages of 14-18. And everyone learns how to draw.

Now, does everyone LOVE drawing? No. Of course not.

Does everyone leave my class and keep drawing? No. Of course not.

Does everyone have a positive experience in my class and leave with finished work they never dreamed they were possible of creating?





I’m gonna cut right to the chase. Time is precious and if your 2021 school year is anything like mine, you are feeling like it’s April and I’m writing this in October. I’m April tired. I know you are too.

So, let’s talk about the process of teaching people how to draw – in my case it’s high schoolers.

There are four basic drawing methods in the scaffold:

1. Line Drawing

2. Drawing using Shapes

3. Drawing using Negative Space

4. Drawing using Value (see Curly Paper and Origami Fox Images below)

Once these four methods have been mastered, you can introduce any medium (even painting) and kids will be comfortable and confident tackling it without hesitation. For real. No whining, no complaining, no anxiety, just kids diving in and taking charge of their learning. Even the ones who got “stuck” in your class ‘cuz there was no place else to put them. Especially those kids.

Today I will focus solely on the basement level in the scaffold – the springboard to drawing fabulousness – Line Drawing.

Now for the “deets” (as the kids like to say – that’s “details” for the rest of us lol)

Line Drawing:

I start with a line drawing because the intimidation factor is LOW.

It’s just a line.

No value, no shading, no nothing but a simple line.

How does it travel? In which direction? How do I judge which way it’s headed – and on and on.

This is the key foundational element to establishing base confidence in your students that will translate to fully engaged kids who want to learn to more about drawing.

Three Phases in the Line Drawing Journey:

Phase 1: We begin the journey with a little exercise I call the Forgery Challenge – you want engagement? Tell high schoolers you are teaching them to be a professional forger…works every time.

What they learn:

Sighting angles, recognizing relationships between lines, drawing them with accuracy, re-checking work for possible corrections (aka always looking for ways to improve the drawing – this is a key studio habit of mind)

*Note: This is the “A-ha” moment when kids (or anyone for that matter) discovers their  ability to observe and render with accuracy. “Hey! I can draw!”

They also learn that their work will go up on the board at the end of every class period (in a group with the rest of the class) for the entire world to see. In our case it’s the entire Instagram world, check us out at @mrstfoxresources. This daily display is guaranteed foolproof for leveling up the quality of work in your classroom. I saw immediate improvement when I began this daily routine. Trust me. It works.

Phase Two: For the next phase in the journey, we tackle two small four-quadrant drawings – worksheets with 3 x 3 Inch drawings based on simple cartoons. One to two-day deadline tops (we have 80 min. blocks). I tell them, “This is where we work the kinks out.” If I started them on a big project immediately, not only would they be intimidated – some students would check out simply from the size and complexity.

I also choose cute little images for this phase that are fun to draw. If you’re thinking high schoolers won’t like cute little cartoons, think again. The kids love them.

What they learn:

All the skills from the Forgery Challenge PLUS the skill of scaling up an image while maintaining scale and proportion. The four quadrants enable students to use the picture plane as a guide to help them gauge line placement with better accuracy. This is a safe and unintimidating because the image is small (roughly 1.5-2 inches) and the drawing is roughly 3 x 3 inches.

This is where we talk about line quality. I choose images that have a varied line weight and students are required to mimic the line weight in the finished drawing. They look almost like they were done with pen but they are pencil.

The reasoning behind this is to increase focus and awareness. Kids need to learn to focus. To dig in and really see each line not only for how it travels but how thick or thin it is. This also slows them down and builds the habit of seeking ways to improve the drawing. The more they look, the more they see. The more they see, the more they find things to fix.

It is important to build the mindset that excellence is the goal. Always. If this goal is established as a class in the beginning of the journey (even before the drawing begins), students will naturally seek areas to improve on. This attitude results in beautifully rendered drawings kids can be proud of.

Time Frame: Two classes per worksheet. Rubric is right on each worksheet so, yay! No more, “I lost my rubric!”

Phase Three: Final project. We finish with an 8 x 10 Inch four-quadrant line drawing. This is simply a more complicated and larger version of the worksheets in Phase Two. The increase in scale is twice the original size and the challenge is maintaining scale, proportion and line quality. Time frame here is approximately 5-6 class periods, so two weeks if you are on a period schedule.

The images are still cute cartoons, they are just more complex and the line weights are extremely varied.

What they learn:

 All skills from Phase 1 & 2 plus some hardcore stamina. We talk about getting a job done in a certain period of time. We discuss creating a plan – “I’ll get this much done today and this much done tomorrow…” Time management talks begin with this project – how to assess time – we don’t pass time, we spend time. Time is currency. You invest and you get a return. If you invest nothing, you get nothing in return. This really resonates with teens. You would not initially think it would. But it does.

 This semester I have 36 students in my Drawing 1 class of all skill levels. We completed this Line Drawing series at the beginning of the semester right after our Twelve Triangles Autobiography. On the due date – 34 of the 36 were submitted (see video on my Facebook Page MrsTFox Resources Art Curriculum) and the final two came in about 3 weeks later due to quarantine issues. Every single one was neat and polished and rendered very well.

How Learning to Draw Builds Student Engagement

I show a lot of prior student examples before each Line Drawing Phase. Work done in my room by kids who sat in the same seats these kids are in right now. My mantra is, “If they could do it, YOU can do it. Yes, you.”

I cannot say enough about the importance of starting your beginner artists drawing using this scaffold. The skills gained during this Line Drawing portion are solid and will serve them well when they begin drawing with shapes (blog post to come next week). The entire Line Drawing phase of the process takes about 2-3 weeks, but the positive effects of the confidence and accomplishment will make the remainder of the journey seamless.

 We operate on a quiet classroom model. Drawing is a Right-brained activity and talking is a left-brained activity. The two cannot co-exist and allow us to achieve the level of excellence we have come to expect. Once I explain it like this they get it. I want them to see the amazingness I know they are capable of. The kids can choose to listen to headphones or listen to my oldies station on my classroom radio (yes, a radio. No Spotify in my room. We kick it old school….FM 95.7 The Ride based out of Charlotte, NC).

One last note on tight deadlines. With tight deadlines there is no time to talk – or do much of anything else other than purse Fabulousness.

Line Drawing Lesson described above complete with narrated video tutorials.

Be Among the First to Know

Please join my email list for “The Weekly Fabulousness” Newsletter, and get new and updated product info, sales alerts and Art Educator PD Workshop Dates (email subscribers get first dibs on seats!)

Not sure you’re interested in being on the list?

Check out my teaching style with a FREE Mini-Workshop!

Each one comes complete with classroom resources. Take all six!

Choose from these FREE workshop topics:


“Teaching Drawing Using a Scaffolded Approach” – You do NOT want to miss this! The philosophy and the actual scaffold, explained in full detail down to each and every drawing exercise and why this teaching strategy works.

Catch the Free Webinar.

Thanks for stopping by and have a safe and fabulous year!

Tiff 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *