Posts Tagged ‘charcoal drawing’

The Sitka Fine Arts Camp has an elementary age session, one week of morning classes. Groups of 15 kids rotate through four classes of just under an hour. This year I got to do art with 3rd through 5th graders. One day we drew a chair – and on another, their counselor modeling!

Here is their work:

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I had the chance this year to teach two classes at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Middle School session: Printmaking, and Natural History Drawing and Watercolor. This is an outstanding camp in every way, with some of the best instructors in the country – practicing artists who have also figured out how to bring young people on that ride. The students are also remarkable, in how they support each other. It was fun to get students to the next level in their art work, but just as neat to see them making connections with each other.

These are some pictures, from the final show, from the Natural History Drawing and Watercolor class. I had 18 middle school students – which is a big group, but they were a good group, and all worked hard.

The first day we did drawing exercises, to get into drawing what you see. Some very effective exercises including blind contour drawing (not looking at your paper) and very fast, timed sketches.

Some drawings from the first day

Some drawings from the first day

Then, next day, shading:



IMG_6334smallwith the idea of using light and shadow to do what they wanted it to. All this was from observation, I set up clamp lights for the shading exercises. First we did strips of various kinds of shading.

The idea I had was to show how to make art starting from observation – but with the idea of making a picture.

Our last exercise session was to copy a watercolor landscape, The Blue Boat, by Winslow Homer, in watercolor. I helped them with color mixing, and pointed out the techniques used to create the illusion of space and depth. In this first photo (these are all taken at the final show, looking down at a table), you can see the picture we were copying.




So this was an experiment but it worked really well. You can talk all day but it’s much better to just do it. I had them try mixing three different greens.

Next was drawing the landscape from observation, and another instructor had mentioned starting with the horizon. Drawing in the horizon is magic. Check these out:




As they were drawing, I also helped them see how how close things are to the horizon tells you how far away they are, and some linear perspective for the students drawing buildings or pavement –

We went outside two more times, once drawing in pen, trying to convey some sense of writing pieces we’d been given by the Writing and the Visual Arts class. The last time, we painted our own landscape in watercolor. That was where I was really impressed with the students. I think most of us would be a bit intimidated by the task but they went for it.

watercolor painting the landscape

watercolor painting the landscape




Also by this point, the last day of a 2-week camp, they were exhausted.

In one class we drew and painted objects we brought in from outside, as well as still life things in the room, in various sizes, and one day we drew some live 5-week-old chickens I brought from home. The chickens seemed to enjoy it as much as the students. Chickens are curious creatures and seem to like outings.



Did I mention Dr. Who was popular at camp.

At the end, we made tiny books, with hard covers covered with paper they’d decorated, and pockets to hold the tiny pieces of art they’d made.




And – poetry. We loaned tiny paintings to the Writing and The Visual Arts class, who wrote poems, on tiny papers that fit in our books. Here are some of the pairings – well, actually, all of them:

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Anyway, good work, guys! The one thing is I wish I’d taken the time to look at our work. It went so fast, and everyone was gone, I was in serious, serious withdrawal the next day. It’s intense, and I really enjoyed all the kids – bright and just plain interesting to talk to. So the next day, when I saw some of the students downtown, I was asking them how they liked camp, though – being a shy person – one girl I ran into but was too shy to talk to. I’m still kicking myself. Because she did really well, I really enjoyed her,  and I never got to tell her so. Well ok Amelia you rock. There now!

I’d love to teach again, maybe just landscape, or people – in a landscape – and I have an idea for drawing a graphic novel. I did that with elementary school kids last fall, I think it would be really cool.

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This is going back to Fine Arts Camp, the Elementary Camp in 2012. The first day is under Color inspired by Kandinsky for 3rd through 6th graders.

We had 60 children, coming in for about an hour in a group of 15 at a time.

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This day, we drew – using good old exercises that might be familiar to you if you took a drawing class in college. I brought in a chair from home, and had the kids do various exercises, like rapid timed drawings – a minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds. You use newsprint and vine charcoal.
Another great exercise is called blind contour: first you hold your pencil or charcoal out, and trace the contour of the thing you are drawing, in the air. You visualize your pencil as a tiny bug, crawling along the contour of the object. Then you draw, not looking at the paper, just looking at what you are drawing, going slowly, and not picking up your charcoal.The results are a big squiggle, but with remarkable truth in the lines.It helps to tell the kids that this is a college exercise. It is hard, or challenging as we say. You have to be sensitive to when the kids are done – depending on the group of kids some went further, some did less, you play it by ear – but that’s any art class. It’s like – there’s nothing like it. But such a great feeling to be guiding a group of people, feeding off their energy and ideas, to direct them to something greater than they thought they could do.

Then do some quick drawings, and then further develop them. Amazing pictures.


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chair drawn by an elementary school child

chair drawn by an elementary school child

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This was a neat project, and the inspiration for starting a blog – to share successful art projects for children.

Megan Lindeman taught drawing and painting at the 2011 Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which has a week for grade school children, then two-week residential sessions for middle school then high school students.

This project was for kids going into fourth grade up to going into sixth grade.

She had each child choose a dictionary illustration – tiny wood engravings from John Carrera’s A Pictorial Webster’s (which itself is really cool). ( Here is a link to a video he made of this remarkable production.)

Megan had each student choose an engraving of an animal, and cut it out from the photocopy sheet. Next, they toned a piece of white paper (big – 18 x 24) with vine charcoal. Then, they used the vine charcoal to draw a large version of their animal, trying to use the entire paper.

Then they were to fill in the middle tones in the picture using the vine charcoal. They then used Alphacolor Char-Kole (compressed charcoal – super black) to add the darkest tones to the picture. Then they used the eraser to get highlights, and finally used white drawing pencils for the brightest highlights.

But that’s not all! They then used chalk pastels to make vibrant, abstract backgrounds for their animals, and the final touch was collaging scraps of colored – and metallic – papers onto the background.

Megan’s original inspiration was an artist in Europe who makes beautiful drawings, then pastes them up into the urban environment, and allows the graffiti and advertisements and grit and posters to happen to his art, and complete it. She had intended to have the kids spray water on the drawings, but they looked so cool the way they were, plus the paper was not very strong.

The classes were about 50 minutes, for five days. This project took three sessions, then day four she had the kids draw an imaginary bicycle – and the last day, they did a quick acrylic still life. I believe the great art teachers always push the limits – so we had a lot of hair dryers going that last day. And of course it wouldn’t be arts camp without blowing a fuse.

The brilliance of this project was that the kids were led through drawing from observation, and modelling with charcoal, without knowing it. I knew a lot of the kids, and a project that engages not only the Artists but the Jocks, that’s a project. They all learned a lot, and were pleased with what they made.

This project would work well for kids all the way through high school.

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