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Vitruvian People

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man sketch is one of his most iconic works. In this lesson students are inspired to create their own Vitruvian men and women based on a book character, a hero, a family member, or even a person of their own creation.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Introduce students to Leonardo DaVinci, artist/inventor of the Renaissance period. Provide students with interesting details about DaVinci (left-handed, raised by a single father, intrigued by human flight, etc.) Show multiple examples of his sketches and inventions.
    2. Share DaVinci’s work Vitruvian Man. The original sketch is full frontal nudity of the male body but there are multiple images on the web that are censored for kids if they are not of age appropriate. Discuss the sketch as a class. What do they see? What type of art is it? How do they think it was made? What techniques/line/form/media were used? etc.
    3. Instruct students to think about whichever character you wish for them to portray according to your unit (career choice, hero, fictional character, family member, character of their own creation). What character traits can they depict on their person?
    4. Distribute 12” x 18” (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm) manila paper, rulers, paper plates or other large round objects and pencils. Students should start by tracing the paper plate to create a perfect circle. Using the ruler, have students draw a square within the circle, with the bottom of the square and the bottom of the circle at the same height.
    5. Review body proportion. There are some great simple charts at The human body should be approximately 8 heads high.
    6. Students draw their character so that the head goes from the top of the square to the bottom legs together and arms outstretched from side to side. Next, add another set of legs and arms slightly outstretched as with Vituvian Man. This is a great time to talk about superposition as an art technique.
    7. Retrace all pencil lines using brown shades of Crayola® Classic or Multicultural Markers. Shade corners and other areas with similar shades of crayon and pencil crayon to create age and depth.
    8. Have students write a short paragraph about their character (key words, important facts, quotes, description). Add text to top and bottom of drawing. Da Vinci often wrote backwards, challenge students to use math mirroring techniques and write their text backwards on their drawing.
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    MATH: Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning.

    SCI: All organisms have external parts.

    SCI: Develop a simple sketch, drawing to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function.

    SS: Identify and describe ways family, groups, individuals have influenced the individual’s daily life and personal choices.

    SS: Recognize and interpret how “the common good” can be strengthened through various forms of citizen action.

    VA: Generalize about the effects of visual structures and functions and reflect upon the effects in their own work.

    VA: Integrate visually and spatial concepts with content to communicate intended meaning.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Da Vinci was a great inventor! Invite students to undertake a unit study on inventors/inventions and have students create an invention and sketch it in Da Vinci’s style using a similar color palette with notes on materials needed, proportions and uses.

    Use Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man sketch to further explore proportions of the human body or other living creatures (i.e. insects, human skeleton), math ratios, area, etc.

    If choosing to do a character study, extend lesson to have students create a setting, plot and finally a story involving the character of their creation.

    Create wacky Mona Lisa artworks using photos of the students.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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