Woody Guthrie Elementary School Curriculum
ART: Studying the Elements of the Line
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Getting Started

Much of Woody's art is characterized by strong use of line. Children will love the curvy black lines of his car drawing (Series 21 #4) and the simple figure of a man in "Seed." The simplicity of line and the lack of facial features may make a child think, "I can do this. I can draw too." Woody's art gives the child permission to be an artist.



Use the black and white drawing, "Little Seed," to study the principle of line. Where does the line look thick and dark? Where does the line get thinner? How do you think that happens? How did Woody use dark lines and light lines in this picture? Why do the strokes on the plant look so dark and thick? What do you think the man in the portrait is thinking? Can you tell? Why or why not? With young children pair this painting with the song "Little Seed" from Woody's 20 Grow Big songs. Older students might listen to "Pastures of Plenty" or "This Land is Your Land."

Have children stand up and pretend they are picking crops that have grown tall like the one held by the figure in "Little Seed". Play "Little Seed" or the suggested music while they use their bodies different ways, reaching, pulling, stretching. This warm-up should tune them into the movement of their limbs and prepare them to draw figures.

After the movement exercise, settle into painting. Oversize paper and pots of black paint or ink should be partnered with pliable brushes that will permit young artists to achieve the types of line Woody used in his paintings. After paintings are dry hang them up for all to enjoy. Discuss various ways students have used line, emphasizing their own input.

Woody Guthrie has observed a multitude of fence posts running along the edge of a forgotten farm, he has watched tall telephone poles outline the horizon along a track, he has witnessed a long train carrying freight and hobos away down the line. These visions are reflected in the way he uses perspective in his art work. Many of his paintings provide children with an excellent opportunity to observe perspective. For example, "Woman and House" from the Bound for Glory series shows a rounded, large figure of a woman in the foreground. She appears close to the viewer and is the biggest element in the painting. Near her, the lines of a fence recede into the back of the picture, the fence posts shrinking in size with each step back, finally disappearing into a point far away. Meanwhile, the house appears smaller than the woman because it is far back.

Woman and House by Woody Guthrie

Guiding children to understand this use of perspective is just one goal; inviting children to use perspective in their own studio work is the other.



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