It’s in the Cards

By Bill Tippit

Drawing from direct observation can be a challenge for new art students. I tried this project out as a primer to my direct observational drawing unit. The lesson begins by discussing the importance of being observant. We also discussed types of art focusing on abstraction.

Project directions:

1) Assign each student a face card from a standard playing card deck.

2) Ask the students to trace the card two or three times (depending on the size of your paper). 

3) Show the students how to use adjustable viewfinders  (I used two “L” shaped papers) to focus on one fingernail sized section of the card.

4) Ask the students to carefully copy what is seen in the viewfinder onto the traced cards on their paper.


5) Ask students to draw from observation the card in its entirety (the traced areas should appear in the foreground). In this step encourage students to include every line and shape from observation, for example, if the King has 9 hairs on his chin, you should include 9 hairs on your drawing. For this project I did not emphasize proper proportion but it can be included if desired.

6) Outline the contours of the drawing with a broad black marker.

card2   card3

7) The project can be considered complete at this point or they can be embellished with color. For this project we used water based markers   and I encouraged students to think “arbitrary”.


Here are some of the finished results!

card9 card6 card7 card8

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