Against the background of Western art education, realistic drawing lost its position of power in the early 20th century. The concept child art was introduced which led to extensive research being conducted into the natural patterns of development and self-expression. Realistic drawing was perceived as rigid and as stifling creativity (Holt, 1979). Drawing forms the basic skill for the subject Visual Arts, yet middle childhood learners often lack the skill to draw realistically. This defined the research questions for this inquiry: How do observation drawing techniques, as an intervention, affect the drawing competence of middle childhood learners? How can the findings of the afore-mentioned question serve to inform a methodological framework for observation drawing? Edwards (1982) cognitive shift model which hypothesises that drawing performance can be enhanced by inhibiting left brain involvement in the task was used as the conceptual framework for this study.
This study was qualitative in nature and placed within arts-based research design, which involves the use of visuals as data. To stimulate the study, Piaget s cognitive development theory was used as theoretical framework. The framework was grounded in constructivism and valued student learning.
The study took place in a South African classroom. Participants in this study were 13 middle childhood learners who believed that they had no talent for art. The participants completed a pre-intervention questionnaire involving two unmediated drawings which were evaluated according to the theory of drawing development stages, hypothesised by Sully in 1885. Observation drawing techniques were administered as intervention during five studio drawing sessions. The main findings justified Edwards claim that nearly anyone can learn to draw using these techniques. Comparing the before and after drawings, the results suggested that observation drawing techniques facilitated learning to draw as all the participants improved noticeably. The findings informed a drawing methodology which serves the need for direct instruction in drawing and perceptual skills to empower Visual Arts learners with artistic and visual literacy.