WILLIAM KURELEK – Looking at Art, Drawing from Memory

Students view and interpret a painting by Canadian artist William Kurelek and then record what they remember of the painting by drawing it from memory. 

Required Time

40 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 2 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts


background colour foreground interpret middle ground shape


Crayola Marker & Watercolour paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Markers - 24 Count

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WILLIAM KURELEK – Looking at Art, Drawing from Memory - Step One

Step One

  1. Once you have viewed the painting for about 5 minutes you are ready to draw what you remember.
  2. Start by blocking in the main composition.
  3. Try to see the painting in your mind's eye.
  4. Add details you can remember.
  5. Add colour, line and texture.
WILLIAM KURELEK – Looking at Art, Drawing from Memory - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Compare your drawing with the painting. 
    ​- What do you notice?
    - What details did you remember?
    - What details did you forget to include?
    - What made it easier to remember details?
    - How did talking about the painting affect your ability to draw it?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • maintain focused looking at a painting by a Canadian artist;
  • identify feelings and themes conveyed by the work; 
  • demonstrate what they have learned by drawing the artwork from memory;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artwork.


Have students:

  • choose an illustration from one of the Kurelek illustrated books;
  • view the image with focused looking;
  • pretend one of the figures in the illustration is them;
  • write a first person narrative about what is happening in the picture;
  • share their stories in small groups.


  1. Download and display the Elements of Design posters available on this website.
  2. Download an image of one of  Kurelek's paintings from the Internet, or gather books illustrated by Kurelek such as A Prairie Boy's SummerA Prairie Boy's WinterO Toronto; and Kurelek Country.
  3. Download and preview the National Film Board video Kurelek - a documentary about the Canadian painter William Kurelek, told through his paintings. 
  4. Read the overview of the life and work of Kurelek by Andrew Kear.


  1. Project the image by William Kurelek or provide enough photocopies of it for groups of children.
  2. Make sure everyone can see the painting.
  3. The main challenge for students is to develop habits of thinking by maintaining focused looking for as long as they can, constantly checking for information, formulating questions and figuring out answers. 
  4. Tell students that most people only look at a work of art for about 7 seconds.
    Their challenge is to see if they can look for a lot longer.
    - Not just looking, but actually seeing what is there.
    - It's easy to start to daydream and think of other things while looking at the painting.
    - This is a seeing game.
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Maintain focused looking at a painting by a Canadian artist.
  2. Identify feelings and themes conveyed by the work.
  3. Demonstrate what you have learned by drawing the artwork from memory.
  4. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artwork.

The Process

  1. First Minute:
    - Take time just to look at the painting, let your eyes and mind go from place to place looking at the details. Let questions pop into your mind as you look. 
  2. Second Minute:
    Find more questions - keep looking trying to find more questions.
  3. Third Minute:
    Try to find an answer to a key question.
    Look away. Rest your eyes.
  4. Check with students
    What did you notice? What questions did you find? How did you answer the questions?
  5. Fourth Minute:
    Look back - what is interesting? … surprising?
    Keep looking for another minute.
  6. Remind students that thinking takes time and they are getting to be very good at it!
  7. Ask students,
    ​- What do you notice in this painting?
    What do you think it means?
    What do you see that makes you say that?
  8. Encourage students to look for evidence and make analogies and give examples as they explain how they know something about the painting.
  9. Share the video Kurelek.
  10. Ask students,
    How does this information affect your understanding of the painting?
  11. Once students have discussed the painting give them one more minute to memorize it, then ask them to draw it.
    - Try to see the image in your mind's eye.
    - Block in the main composition first.
    - Add details, colours, textures.
  12. Show the image again and ask students to compare their drawing to the actual painting.
    - What details did you include?
    - What details did you leave out?
    - How did talking about the painting affect you ability to draw it from memory?



  1. Have students work with a partner.
  2. Ask them to share and compare their drawings with each other.
    - How are they the same?
    - How are they different?
    - How closely do the drawings match the actual painting?
    - What key details are not visibke in the drawings?
    - What did they learn by doing this activity?
  3. Ask some students to share their ideas with the whole class.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, interest.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their drawings – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the drawing.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – LookingAtArt_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the 3R’s format (Retell, Relate, Reflect) to write about the painting and their drawing of it.