Daily Rituals: Dot and Line Transformations With Constraints

Adding constraints to everyday activities can make them much more creative and challenging.

We have already suggested “daily ritual” activities that are much more creative than “free draw”.  Research shows that most students given the opportunity to “free draw” usually draw the same thing or a variation, or choose something very simple and don’t truly engage or invest themselves in its creation. So try revisiting the rituals suggested so far in Everyartist Everyday and add constraints to make them more challenging for students.  

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Magic Doodles (Sensational Scribbles)...This creativity sparking activity is actually modeled after parts of I.Q. testing and parts of the Torrance Test. You still use only 3-5 random lines, but add constraints to layer more thinking such as:

  • The students must now use the lines to draw something that is only organic, or

  • something purely geometric, even if the lines are all curves,

  • a sculpture,

  • a piece of architecture (possibly showing one- or two-point perspective),

  • an animal,

  • a person, historical figure, or self-portrait,

  • or a plant, etc.  

The difficulty of the constraint varies by age, content appropriateness or what links to areas currently being studied in other classes.  The forms of structures in our architectural unit showed creative use of curved surfaces for creating buildings, covers, and homes. It was a perfect lead-in to introduce the architectural wonders of Frank Gehry and Gaudi’s Casa Mila’,  challenging stereotypical assumptions about the nature of buildings.


The Dot, by Peter Reynolds sparks artwork with a single dot as part of something.  After doing this initial exercise, to add more layers of thinking and creativity, require the dot to be part of something manmade, or stipulate there have to be 10 dots on or in the thing the students draw.

One great example of this was a fourth  grade student’s work that had the dot for a clown’s nose, but the clown also had on a dotted hat and shirt, with dot-like pompoms on the shirt, dots for his eyes on his face, curly hair made up of round ringlets that could be dots. The single dot expanded into over 50 dots in a complete deeply detailed scene.  In a first grade class, an  adorable  round puppy dog is appropriately called “Puppy Named Spot”.