Lesson Objectives: Students will create a ship using lines.

Time Required: 1 hour 

Artist:  Vincent Van Gogh, Kneeling Man Planting, 1881 (available online)


White paper 9×12




Tortillions (blending stumps)


  1. Discuss lines: straight, curvy, wavy, criss-crossed.
  2. Show how you can combine lines to create a recognizable object, i.e. 2 straight lines make a letter “T”, 2 long vertical lines plus a lot of short horizontal lines will make a ladder.
  3. Discuss how artists use guidelines…lines that are used to help place other lines, and that not all lines drawn will end up in the final picture.


A.  Pass out white paper. Hold it horizontally. Name on back.

B.  Draw the hull of the ship step by step with the students, leaving space on the paper in the front and back of the ship for the masts and sails. (See instructions in the binder.)

C. Draw the masts of the ship.

D. Draw the flags on top of the mast. Make them wavy to look like they’re blowing in the breeze. 

E. Draw the cross bars on the masts, which will hold the sails. They should get wider toward the bottom.

F. Now it’s time to draw the sails. First, draw a concave line from the end of the top crossbar to the end of the middle crossbar. Then draw a convex line on the other end of the top crossbar to the end of the middle crossbar. Draw a curved line along the bottom of the middle crossbar. These lines will develop a sail that looks like it’s billowing in the wind. But there’s still a problem: the mast should be behind the sail. So, simply erase the mast line within the confines of the sail. Continue to do the same with the remaining sails, erasing any line within the confines of the sail, including adjacent crossbars.

G. Now it’s time to add some shading. Show how you can use the charcoal for dark or light values, and show how you can use the blending stump to get a smooth coverage. Darken the masts and crossbars, leaving the sails white. Charcoal is messy! There is no getting around it, but one suggestion is to shade from the top of the picture down, so the student’s hand won’t smear the charcoal as much.