Lesson #2: From photograph to a sketch

Part of the unit: Drawing a Figure in a Setting |


How can we determine which photograph to sketch?
Students will be able to:
Select the best photograph to work from based on its composition and use of scale and perspective.
Use an ebony pencil to make a sketch.
Students will understand that:
The placement and size of a figure impacts the composition.
Scale can be varied by the placement and size of a figure in a setting.
Artists often use photo images as reference when planning a composition.

ebony pencils, 12x16 white paper


Student photos of a figure in a setting


Students should receive 4x6 prints of the two photographs they took of a figure in their classroom setting. The photographs they took at home or the magazine photos should be displayed on their desks as well. 

Today we will be making a sketch from the photograph of your choice.

  • What are the criteria for selecting the photograph to enlarge for your drawing? (a change in scale, an interesting angle, good composition)
  • Do you have to copy it exactly as you see it?  Why or why not?

Students will work with a partner to select the photograph that best meets the criteria listed on the board. Discuss what changes you might want to make in your sketch to improve the composition.


The teacher will select one student photograph from which to make a light sketch with an ebony pencil on 12x16 white drawing paper.  Emphasize copying the largest shapes and forms first to establish the basic composition. 

  • In what ways does this sketch differ from the photograph?
  • What can I do to improve the sketch?
  • Which details should I add and why?

Distribute ebony pencils and 12x16 white drawing paper.  Students will make a light sketch of their photograph, emphasizing the basic shapes while paying close attention to the composition.

Post student sketches in front of the room.  Ask students to identify sketches that illustrate a great change in scale, an unusual point of view, and attention to detail, and to explain what the student artist did to achieve that effect. 


With a partner, students should compare their partner's photograph with his/her drawing.  Students should give their partner critical feedback and suggestions for how to improve it.