Lesson #2: Observing Details

Part of the unit: Painting a Neighborhood Scene |


How can careful observation create a sense of place?
Students will be able to:
Participate in a class discussion about a narrative work of art
Build on the observations of others
Use personal observations to create a drawing of a neighborhood block
Students will understand that:
Artists use carefully observed details to create a sense of place.

12"x16" white paper, pencils, erasers


Francis Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn, a video of the Brooklyn Museum's Curator of American Art discussing Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn (5 minute video at www.thirteen.org/sundayarts/francis-guy-winter-scene/80), homework materials (photos, drawings, lists)


Display Francis Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn. Explain that this scene of downtown Brooklyn painted in 1819 tells us what life was like almost two hundred years ago.  

  • What details do you see that create a sense of place? (chart responses)
  • How does the artist indicate that this is a winter scene?

Show the video of Winter Scene in Brooklyn. 

  • After viewing the video, what details can we add to our list?  (chart responses)
  • How is your neigbhorhood similar? How is it different?  (chart responses)

Using the teacher sketch from the previous lesson and reference materials of the same block (teacher photographs, sketches made on site, list of observations), the teacher should ask:

  • How is a sketch from memory different from actual observation?

The teacher should describe how to use these new reference materials to create a new drawing that includes details such as architectural details, animals, people, vehicles, shops, signage, and weather.  A few of these details should be demonstrated.

Distribute student drawings from the previous lesson and pencils, erasers, and 12"x16" white paper.  Using reference materials gathered for homework, students should create a new drawing of their block that includes details to create a sense of place.

Display student drawings.  Ask students to select a few that have interesting details. Discuss how these details help create a sense of place.

The classroom teacher should explore the theme of neighborhood by examining the work of photojournalists such as Lewis Hine, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt and James Van Der Zee. Students should write a personal response to one image by describing the photographer's treatment of the subject and the details that create a sense of place.  Students should share their responses.

The teacher should also arrange a trip to the Brooklyn Museum to see Francis Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn.  A museum educator could assist in integrating this painting into the theme of a neighborhood scene.