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Different strokes.

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"I actually liked this project, Mrs. G!" This backhanded compliment, from one of my most jaded, skeptical students, really warmed my heart. If I'd provided this cynical kid with an exciting, engaging activity, I'd done my job.

We'd used chalk pastels before, in the typical manner with much blending and mixing of color. I felt my high-school class needed to try another technique with no smudging with tissues, no using tortillons (blending stumps), no soft color merging. All too often, young artists blend too many colors together and lose the brilliance of the pastels.

GETTING STARTED I asked the students to select a landscape photograph from which to work. While there's nothing like drawing from life, our wintry weather didn't permit it. We worked on 12" x 18" black pastel paper--it provided great contrast and a nice tooth.

To begin, I demonstrated the use of a neutral chalk pastel with which to sketch in the major shapes. Often, kids want to draw in pencil first, but I asked them to refrain from that.

Next, I showed them how to lay in broad areas of background color in middle tones, skimming the paper surface with the flat sides of the pastels, except where the darkest areas would be! "Leave them black," I requested. "Use your black paper for the lowest values."

MAKING THEIR MARK Finally, I explained that we would finish the works with distinct marks, similar to the broken color of the Impressionists. We would mix colors by placing strokes of pure color next to each other. From a distance, the eye blends them into new colors. In other words, colors in close proximity are combined optically.

I showed the class how to hatch and crosshatch and I even dabbed with soft pastels in the Pointillist manner, al most like stippling. I also encouraged the artists to work in various directions, contouring their strokes to add a vibrant sense of motion to their pieces.

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The lightest tones were the last ones I put on the paper. I called the finishing touches "the icing on the cake." In addition to the demonstrated work, I displayed several other finished pieces of the same style.

While most of the students were very successful with this project, those who portrayed a great deal of texture probably enjoyed it the most. Rocks, leaves, grasses, bark: all these and more lent themselves to hatching and crosshatching.

Leaving the black paper bare in the darkest areas was a challenge the kids met very well. I use the word "challenge" because the students had to think backwards, reversing their approach, putting in the lightest tones last and not the shadows.

When these lovely landscapes were finished, we sprayed them with fixative, not directly on the surface, but above it. I reminded the students to use light, multiple layers of the spray.

I'm far too modest to call this project a stroke of genius, but, should you use this lesson, I will say this about your students' self-esteem: It'll stroke their egos!

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LEARNING OBJECTIVES

High-school students will ...

* demonstrate the ability to create a landscape using only the medium of chalk pastels.

* understand and be able to use a full range of values in a work of art.

* utilize a thoughtful selection process in choosing subject matter.

* demonstrate an understanding of hatching and crosshatching techniques.

MATERIALS

* Chalk pastels

* Resource photos of landscapes

* Black pastel paper

* Quality exemplars

* Fixative

VOCABULARY

Crosshatching

Hatching

Impressionism

Pointillism

Tooth

Value

Paula Guhin is retired from teaching art at Central High School in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and serves as a Contributing Editor for Arts & Activities.
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Title Annotation:pastel drawing
Author:Guhin, Paula
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Words:611
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