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Drawing Imaginary Plants


Students will explore different ways to use an Ebony pencil to draw lines and shapes, and identify their expressive qualities. Students will look closely at natural objects and use drawing techniques to draw their lines, shapes, textures and patterns. Using photos as reference, students will explore drawing real plants from around the world. Finally, students will choose features from these different plants to combine or exaggerate and draw their own plant from imagination.

Grade Level



Paper and Ebony pencils

Theme/ Big Idea

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

Essential Question

How can I use my pencil in different ways to draw and respond to what I see? How can I use lines, shapes, textures and details observed in natural objects and plants to create my own imaginary plant?

  • Teaching Guide


Materials and Tools

  • Sheets of white paper: 9 x 12” or 12 x 18” 
  • Ebony or regular pencil
  • Natural objects with texture: rocks, leaves, pinecones, bark, wood pieces, seed pods, seashells, etc.
  • Magnifying glass (optional)

Alternative Materials 

  • In place of pencils, different drawing tools can be used, such as: 
  • Artist pencils with different degrees of hardness
  • Artist pens of different thickness
  • Colored pencils


  • Students will learn techniques to use a pencil to make a variety of marks, lines and shapes.
  • Students will be able to identify the expressive qualities of the lines, shapes, textures and features of different natural objects and plants.
  • Students will learn strategies for observational and imaginative drawing.

Student Outcomes

Students will understand that:

  • How to identify the expressive qualities of marks, lines and shapes.
  • How to make a drawing based on close looking at an object or image.
  • How to record what we see using marks, lines and shapes.
  • How to combine or exaggerate features to create an imaginary plant.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify different kinds of marks, lines and shapes, and use their pencil in new ways to demonstrate how to make them.
  • Identify lines, shapes and textures when observing an object, and apply this knowledge to draw from observation.
  • Envision and draw their own imaginary plant, combining or exaggerating features from natural objects or plants from around the world.


List of fictional plants from books, movies and video games: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_plants

Parallel Botany: The Study of Imaginary Plants by Anne Percoco 

A book of imaginary plant specimens made using consumer products: https://www.blurb.com/books/9000873-parallel-botany

“What is Botanical Art?” article from Botanical Art & Artists website: https://www.botanicalartandartists.com/what-is-botanical-art.html

Article on the history of botanical art in India: https://scroll.in/magazine/913816/from-temple-walls-to-instagram-the-long-and-rich-history-of-botanical-art-in-india

The exhibit The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and the Cosmic Tree explores the ongoing significance of the plant kingdom to human life, consciousness and spirituality. The exhibition brings together works by over 60 visionary, surrealist, modern, outsider, indigenous Amazonian and contemporary artists: https://www.botanicalmind.online

Series of lessons from Science World on “Plants All Around Us”:

Explore resources from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens include:

  • In-person and virtual tours and field trips
  • Project Green Reach (PGR), a semester-long program for K–8 teachers and their classes in Brooklyn’s Title I schools
  • Packages of videos and interactive lessons, such as “Tropical and Desert Plant Explorations” (K–8) and “Exploring Plants in Our Lives” (K–8)

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens website: https://www.bbg.org/learn/teachers_and_schools

Resources from the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx include:

  • In-person class trips and workshops on plants and gardening
  • Activity guides

New York Botanical Gardens website: https://www.nybg.org/learn/schools-teachers/

Resources from the Queens Botanical Garden include:

  • In-person tours and workshops
  • Virtual lessons and activity guides

Queens Botanical Garden website: https://queensbotanical.org/learn/

Resources from the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens include:

  • Class trips and workshops

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens website: https://snug-harbor.org/class-trips/


What’s Inside A Flower?: And Other Questions About Science & Nature by Rachel Ignotofsky

A World of Plants by Martin Jenkins (Author), James Brown (Illustrator)

Tillie and the Wall by Leo Lioni

Plant: Exploring the Botanical World by Phaidon Editors


For Students with Disabilities

  • Use hand motions or body motions to show different lines and shapes, for example moving the body to show a wavy line.
  • Think about the sounds a line might make, or that you might hear in an artwork.
  • Try different ways to hold a pencil to find a comfortable position.
  • Use alternate drawing tools and materials. Think about different-sized paper and drawing tools with different girth or grip.
  • When drawing an object, feel the object with eyes closed and describe how it feels.
  • Choose a natural object to draw that has special relevance—personal, familial or cultural.
  • Use of technology: have students draw lines and shapes on an iPad or in Google Classroom. 
  • Use of audio with visuals in the student-facing Google Slides.

For Multilingual Learners

  • Use visual charts and images paired with vocabulary words for new artistic concepts.
  • Use icons or symbols to provide visuals for lines and shapes.
  • Re-cast and spiral vocabulary: repeat vocabulary and concepts in lessons so that students gain familiarity. Activate a student’s prior knowledge.
  • Connect to prior knowledge: What else do you know that is wavy like this line? What are some other places that you have seen a texture like this?
  • Use TPR (Total Physical Response) to draw lines and shapes in the air with their fingers or hands.
  • Signpost: tell students what you are going to do next.
  • Break down processes into multiple steps with visuals for each.
  • Chunk information and keep instructions concise.
  • Elicit information: ask questions, give students time to think about an answer, and extend the wait time. 
  • Have multiple entry points: speaking, showing and doing.
  • Use of audio with visuals in student facing lesson guides.
  • Connect ideas to books: look at illustrated books about plants and the natural world.


Imagine a Plant that Heals

Plants provide humans with many things, including healing properties. Design and draw your own imaginary plant, thinking about what it could help heal. How will you show your plants healing properties? 


A medical garden in book form that contains data on the appearance, gathering, preparation, and use of medicinal plants.

Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus, De medicinali materia, 1542, from Gart der Gesundheit, Hortus Sanitatis (The Garden of Health)

Plants From Home
Draw a plant from your own culture or home country. Research a specific plant, or work from memory.

Find out or remember as much as you can about the plant: Where is this plant from? Or where did you see this plant? What is it used for? What shape is it? What color is it?  Does the plant have a texture? 

Collage an Imaginary Plant

Use textured paper (corrugated, sandpaper, smooth, tissue, etc.) to make a collage of an imaginary plant. Explore tearing and cutting to create shapes with different edges. Spend some time arranging the composition of your plant before gluing. Layer additional details. 

You can also make painted paper to create plant collages. Mix and layer colors with paint, then use combs or other tools to create visual textures. After these papers dry, they can be used to tear and cut to make plant collages.

Clay Texture Tiles

Explore using additive and subtractive techniques with clay. Try using hands and clay tools to make a variety of marks and lines by poking, pinching, scraping, etc. How can you use these techniques to create the different textures of the natural objects we looked at? 

Roll flat slabs of clay, then use a template to make a tile shape. Create the texture of one of the natural objects on your clay tile.

Still-Life Drawing From Observation

Suggestions for different observation drawing objects to focus on specific skills:

  • Textures: cacti, leaves, sea shells
  • Different viewpoints: flowers
  • Parts to whole: tools; kitchen tools; bicycles; toy cars, trucks, trains, planes or boats
  • Contour lines: shells, fruits, vegetables

Alternative art materials to use in place of media indicated in the lesson plans: 

  • Oil pastels or colored pencils (students can create value scales with colored pencils)
  • Black, gray or tan drawing paper is great to experiment with value and contrast.
  • Tempera or watercolor paint

New York Teaching & Learning in Visual Arts Standards

Art Making: 5th Grade Learning Indicators for Drawing

an imaginative interpretation of an observed subject

  • the ability to observe and then combine shapes to represent a subject
  • identification and rendering of detail
  • ability to create a variety of visual textures through mark making
  • basic organization of space such as foreground and background

Create a drawing that demonstrates:

Literacy in the Arts

  • Looking at and Discussing Art
  • Developing Visual Arts Vocabulary
  • Reading and Writing About Art
  • Problem Solving: Interpreting and Analyzing Art

Making Connections

  • Recognizing the Societal, Cultural, and Historical Significance of Art; Connecting Art to Other Disciplines
  • Observing and Interpreting the World

Community and Cultural Resources

  • Cultural Institutions
  • Online Resources and Libraries
  • Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), Local Artists, and Studios

Careers and Lifelong Learning

  • Awareness of Careers in Visual Arts
  • Art for Enjoyment and Lifelong Learning

NYS Learning Standards for the Arts

Artistic Process: Creating

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 1:  Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work
  • Anchor Standard 2:  Organize and develop artistic ideas and work
  • Anchor Standard 3:  Refine and complete artistic work

Artistic Process: Presenting

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation
  • Anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation
  • Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work

Artistic Process: Responding

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work
  • Anchor Standard 8: Interpret meaning in artistic work
  • Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work

Artistic Process: Connecting

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 10: Relate and synthesize knowledge and personal experiences to inspire and inform artistic work
  • Anchor Standard 11: Investigate ways that artistic work is influenced by societal, cultural, and historical context and, in turn, how artistic ideas shape cultures past, present, and future


Drawing Imaginary Plants

Written By
Belinda Blum, Andrea Burgay, Traci Talasco

Studio in a School NYC
Julie Applebaum, Senior Director  
Patricia Hewitt, Chair, Board of Directors, Studio in a School Association
Alison Scott-Williams, President, Studio in a School NYC

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