The Basics of Drawing #1: A Multi-Age Art Level Lesson
by Elaine Ernst Schneider
The first factor in a true art lesson is choosing the basic equipment with which you are most comfortable. There are a variety of pencils, paper, chalks, and charcoals available. For younger children, you might wish to start with a large pencil that is easy for little hands to grasp. For more mature artists, choose a black pastel chalk in pencil form or a graphite art pencil. Graphite pencils are soft and hard. A soft pencil makes a darker line than the soft pencils. Charcoal pencils generally come in hard, medium, and soft. Experiment with the textures of different papers. Different combinations of paper and pencil grade will produce effects that are quite varied. With either the pencil or the chalk, you will want an eraser. For pencil, the usual soft rubber pink or white eraser works fine. For chalk and charcoal drawings, the suitable eraser is a kneaded rubber gray square.
To begin, try contour drawing. First, arrange a few items on a table. Looking at the items more and the paper less, attempt to sketch just the outer lines of the shapes, as if you were moving your fingertip along the outside edges of each thing. Do not shade in at this point. Just concentrate on the outlines. Next, try another contour drawing, but use a softer or blunter pencil this time. Compare the two drawings. Notice the change in the thickness of the lines when you changed pencils.
Choosing the pencil you enjoyed using the most, draw the contour of the items a third way. This time, scribble the outline in short strokes. You can vary the strokes from short straight lines to circular patterns. This type of drawing is a bit freer. It encourages spontaneity. And it seems to add depth to the picture.
With younger children: Remember that younger children enjoy scribbling. This is good practice in eye/hand coordination. Don’t push for perfectly straight lines on the contour drawings. Praise the process! Try to avoid the temptation to “add to” or “fix” a child’s drawing. Help the child observe the items on the table and capture them in his or her drawing as an individual and unique effort. There is not a “right” result. As children mature and hand coordination improves, the nature of the art work may also develop and change. Let this happen naturally and enjoy watching!
With the more mature artist: Concentrate on observation. The idea is to experience what is seen and transform it kinesthetically (through use of the hand) into another form or perception. Experiment with variations in holding the drawing utensil. It is natural to grip the pencil as you would when you are writing. But also try holding the pencil, chalk, or charcoal as an orchestra conductor holds a baton. The variation will produce a different type of stroke.
Art as a Thematic Cross-Curriculum Teaching Tool: Because art causes the student to be more aware, i.e. to see and notice more, it is a dynamite companion to other lessons. For example, choose items to draw that tie in with other subject lessons. If you are studying the four food groups, use a banana, apple, and orange as your table items. If you are reading a literature assignment that described the leaves on a particular tree or a grassy knoll, create a table arrangement of those items. To further expand the theme, try a creative writing paper that compares the drawing to how the author might have envisioned the scene when s/he wrote the description.
For Added Impact: Choose an artist to study. Check out a library book about that artist. Visit an art museum to see the artist’s work.