Lesson #1: Drawing Organic Shapes

Part of the unit: Nature Inspired Collage Compositions |


Why do natural forms inspire artists?
Students will be able to:
Carefully observe natural forms
Draw organic shapes
Students will understand that:
Artists are inspired by the natural world.
The shapes found in nature are organic.

12x18 black construction paper, white chalk, scissors



Flowers and plants for each table;  Henri Matisse's Branch of a Judas Tree (MoMA) and Beasts of the Sea (National Gallery of Art)



Flowers/plants should be placed on student tables.  Display Henri Matisse's Branch of a Judas Tree.

Explain that this drawing of leaves of a tree was done by Henri Matisse, one of many artists inspired by the forms found in nature. 

Display Matisse's Beasts of the Sea and write the title on the board.

  • What do you see in this artwork that reminds you of the sea?  (simple shapes that look like seaplants, fish, coral, sea animals, water, land, sky;  colors that are reminiscent of the sea and coral reefs)  Chart responses.
  • What do the shapes in both of these Matisse works have in common?

Explain that shapes that are curvy and free-form resemble the shapes and forms found in nature.  These shapes are called organic.

Ask two different students to draw an organic shape on the board. Point out that there is no one way to draw an organic shape. 

Explain that this unit will involve making an artwork inspired by nature. To begin this unit, the students will observe and practice drawing the shapes found in the flowers/plants on their desks.


Using 12"x18" black construction paper and white chalk, the teacher should demonstrate how to select one section of the plant to draw. He/she should emphasize the importantance of concentrating and drawing slowly in order to capture the shapes and curved edges they see.  After drawing the basic leaf/flower shapes, the teacher should demonstrate how to draw the details that make the plants/flowers different from each other. 

Ask the students how working with white chalk on black paper is different from using a pencil on white paper.

Distribute black construction paper and white chalk. 

Explain that artists choose how to represent a subject - they may do a whole figure or just a part. 

  • Why would an artist decide to draw only a section of the subject?

Students will draw a section of their plant, making sure to fill the space of their page.  Emphasize that they should begin by drawing the basic shapes before adding details. 

Midway through the worktime, ask students to "turn and talk" with a neighbor by sharing their works-in-progress and discussing which areas of the flower/plant need to be observed more carefully.

Display the student drawings.  Explain that every artist has a different way of looking and capturing what he/she sees.

  • Why do natural forms inspire artists?
  • What discoveries did you make about your flowers/plants by drawing them?
  • What challenges did you face?  What successes did you have?
  • What kind of shapes do you see in all your drawings?
  • Why is it important for artists to reflect on their work?

Sometimes artists are like scientists:  they both carefully observe and describe the natural world.  Find an example of the natural world in your home or classroom.  Using a pencil, carefully draw it. Pay special attention to the details you see.