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Lesson 4: Drawing Plants from Around the World with Oil Pastels


Students will translate the expressive qualities of plants that inspires them into lines and shapes in a drawing.

Grade Level



Drawing / Oil Pastels

Theme/ Big Idea

Artists make drawings using both observation and imagination. Artists also use observation to inspire ideas for imaginary drawings.

Essential Question

How can I create my own imaginary plant from what I imagine and what I observe? How can I use oil pastels to create lines, shapes, colors, textures and details to create my own imaginary plant?

  • Unit & Lessons
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Case Studies

Materials and Tools

  • Oil Pastels
  • 9 x 12″ drawing paper
  • Plants from Around the World photos


Step 1: Introduction and Discussing Plants from Around the World

Hello artists! In the last lesson we drew a natural object from observation. What was it like to draw this way? Did you notice anything interesting about your object by observing it closely?

Artists often draw physical objects that are in front of them. But artists also draw things that they can’t directly observe, using photos as reference. How do you think drawing from a photograph might be different from drawing an actual object?

In this lesson, you will draw plants from around the world. We will use reference photos to observe the distinctive features of these plants and identify their lines, shapes and visual textures.

Let’s take some time to look at the photos of plants from around the world linked here.

Choose one photo of a plant that inspires you and that you want to draw.

  • Have you ever seen a plant like this before?
  • What distinctive features do you notice?
  • Why do you imagine this plant has these features?

Step 2: Planning Your Drawing

Take out your drawing paper. 

Chinese Lantern Plant

Take a minute to look closely at your plant and think about these prompts:

  1. What is the largest shape of the plant?
  2. Is the plant tall or wide? 
  3. Which parts are larger and which parts are smaller?
  4. Where do you see lines? What kinds of lines are they?
  5. What kinds of lines, shapes or patterns show the texture?
  6. What details do you notice?
  7. How will you draw your plant’s distinctive features?

Why do you think it’s important to plan before drawing? Consider these questions to help you plan your composition.

  1. Will your drawing paper be vertical or horizontal?
  2. How big do you need to draw your plant to fill your paper?
  3. Where will you draw the largest shape of your plant?

Trace the shape of the plant on your paper with your finger. Make a mark with your pencil where your plant will hit the edges of your page.

Step 3: Drawing the Big Shapes

Look at your plant photo and begin drawing the largest shapes that you see.

  • What kind of lines make the edge of the shape? Are they thick or thin?

Start by lightly drawing the shapes of your plant.

Once you draw the lines that best describe your plant, go over these to make them darker.

You don’t need to erase anything.

Keep drawing slowly.

Remember, artists use photos for inspiration and to learn what something looks like. But an artists’ drawing expresses their personal way of seeing, and it will look different than the photo.

Step 3: Drawing Small Shapes, Details and Texture

After drawing the large shapes of your plant, add any smaller shapes.

  • What details do you notice? Add these to your drawing.
  • Draw the textures that you see.

Have students draw a second plant if there is time available.

Step 4: Reflection Questions for Discussion

Questions for Individual Artists

  • What did you first notice about your plant?
  • What new details did you discover about your plant while you were drawing?
  • How did you draw your plant’s distinctive features?

Questions for Whole Group

  • What do you notice about the plant in this drawing?
  • How did the artist draw that feature? What lines or shapes did they use?


Reference photo

Distinctive features



Photos of plants from around the world

Guardian article and images from Plant: Exploring the Botanical World, a book celebrating botanical art throughout history and within different cultures


For Multilingual Learners

Have students who want to draw the same plant sit in a group and share their observations about the photo with the group before drawing.

Connect to prior knowledge—ask students to share if they’ve seen plants like these before and what they know about them. Ask students to share if there are other plants with distinctive features that they know of.


Draw Plants from Observation

Bring interesting plants into the classroom to draw or visit a local park or botanical garden to draw plants from observation. 

Draw Your Natural Object Using Different Drawing Media

Continue to explore expressive qualities of plants using paint or collage.

Personal Connections to Geographic Locations

Draw a plant from your culture or home country.


Why do plants with specific features grow in different places? Draw 1-2 plants and the environments where they grow.