In week 2 of our Classical Conversations (CC) year, we always have an art project based on symmetry, or “mirror images” as the CC Foundations Guide puts it. This is a fun week that involves a little brain stretching, but it’s important both for becoming a more skilled artist and for supporting many non-art related studies. Since we’re studying American History and Geography in Cycle 2, I thought the U.S. Capitol Building would make a great art project. We can also sneak in a short twenty second explanation the building to help students connect the dots between our art project and the corresponding history and geography studies!
Why Symmetry is Important in Education
Symmetry is a great concept that even the youngest students can grasp. We see it in art, but also in social interactions, biology, chemistry, physics, and math. In fact, the concepts of symmetry occur in many levels of mathematics, from geometry and probability to algebra, calculus and beyond. It’s also a great example of “invariance” (when something does not change under a set of transformations). As students progress through their schooling, the concept of symmetry will be used over and over again.
Why Learn to Draw Symmetrical Objects
Studying symmetry in art clarifies the idea of symmetry for students and gives them a deeper understanding of symmetry. Studying symmetry also helps us become better artists because we often intend to draw a subject symmetrical, but it ends up lopsided. Taking time to practice drawing symmetrical subjects will help artists gain the ability to draw balanced (not lopsided) objects. Symmetry drawing exercises also helps us all become better artists as we look for what is really there instead of what we think should be there.
Drawing the U.S. Capitol Building using Symmetry
This project will be very similar to the symmetry drawing project we did last year. We’ll start with a little warm-up exercise just to help the students get the hang of drawing the other half of a symmetrical object. Last year I had six images on the warm-up sheet and I thought it took up a little too much time. So, this year there are only 3 images on the warm-up sheet. They are all American landmarks to keep with our theme.
Then we’ll use a simplified line drawing of the U.S. Capitol building, folded in half, to draw first one half and then the other half of the capitol building. I’ve created a full lesson plan for this art project which includes:
- A script explaining:
- how symmetry is used in many subjects
- how symmetry is used to create balance in Art (using The Last Supper as an example)
- where and what the U.S. Capitol Building is and when it was built
- A Color copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper
- Warm-up exercise with three American landmarks (The Golden Gate Bridge, The Gateway Arch and the U.S. Capitol building)
- Detailed Art Project instructions
- Options for scaling the art project up or down depending on the experience level of your art students
- Line drawing of the U.S. Capitol Building (west facing side)
- Simplified line drawing of the U.S. Capitol Building (west facing side)
Purchase the “Drawing the U.S. Capitol Building Using Symmetry” Lesson Plan Here
Drawing is a Learning Tool
I’m extra excited about this project because after I drew these simplified versions of the building, I actually remembered what it looked like! When I visited the Capitol Building at 17 years old, I didn’t really know much about it and so the experience wasn’t particularly meaningful. I didn’t even remember visiting the U.S. Capitol Building until recently when I pulled out my old photo album and saw a picture of myself in front of it! Now that I’ve drawn it several times, the distinctive characteristics of the building are stuck in my memory and I’m able to easily recognize it. I even remember what the east vs west facing sides look like. I love how drawing something is a type of kinesthetic activity that helps me memorize. (I really want to start a travel journal sketch book for this very reason.) Is there some visual you’re wanting to commit to memory? Try sketching it!
Are you wondering what the rest of our Classical Conversations drawing art projects look like for cycle 3? Here they are! I’m making them available at a discount in the All American Drawing Package, or you can buy each separately:
- Drawing Basic Shapes with American Landmarks Lesson Plan
- Drawing the U.S. Capitol Building using Symmetry Lesson Plan
- Drawing Upside Down Ships Lesson Plan
- Using Color like Andy Warhol Lesson Plan
- Tricking the Eye with Op Art Lesson Plan
- Making a Statement with Grant Wood’s American Gothic Lesson Plan
You can see what our art projects for the first six weeks of last year (CC, cycle 2) looked like here.