Grade 6–Charcoal Drawing

Every other Friday, we have a watercolor painting lesson. Well, we used to paint every week, but we started a nature program every other Friday, so now we paint on our off-Friday.

However, this year I decided that my sixth grade daughter would work with charcoal during the usual painting time. My fourth grade son is still painting on Fridays, so my daughter likes to paint along with him (it is so hard for her to resist), and the lessons can go on very late as a result!

Tomas Wildgruber writes about the sixth grader in Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools: Classes 1 – 8 (fabulous book, by the way):

To put aside watercolour paintings for a while, with their more naïve pictorial experience, and to work instead with nuances of light and shade between black and white, is a way of coming to meet pupils’ violently fluctuating soul life at this age.

The exercises in the book begin with “plane exercises”, then move to “illuminated objects”. We have yet to begin the illuminated objects, so it will have to wait until early seventh grade. Below are our plane exercises:

01 sphere 6th grader 02 sphere 2 6th grader

03 bowl 6th grader 04 two forms 6th grader

05 scales pointed 6th grader 06 scales curved 6th grader

A “free” composition:

11 charcoal free composition

For the cover of her book, she used a black crayon and pencil, so that it wouldn’t smudge:

00 Cover charcoal drawings

And here are my pictures (the ones I could find, anyway):

07 sphere 2 mom

09 scales pointed mom 10 scales curved mom

Charcoals are quite inexpensive, which is a welcome relief. We bought a few different kinds and we are still experimenting to find what we like best. Most of the drawings above were done with compressed charcoal, then we discovered willow and vine charcoal. It is easier to get soft grays with the willow and vine than the compressed charcoal.

I suggest the following supplies:

Good Drawing Paper
Onion Skin or Tracing Paper (to put between finished works)
Willow or Vine Charcoal 
Compressed Charcoal Sticks
Charcoal Pencils
Kneaded Rubber Eraser 
Blending Sticks

That is a long list, but you really just need the paper and the charcoal to get started. You can do all of the lessons with just those two supplies. The other supplies are nice to have, maybe as the projects get more involved, but not necessary.

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