Tone Drawing

TONE DRAWING for 4th and 5th grade

photo buckTone drawing was a favorite artistic activity of all of my children. I incorporated it into our natural science work ( Man and Animal/Zoology and Botany) in 4th and 5th grades. My inspiration for this was a wonderful book by Dennis Klocek called Drawing from the Book of Nature ( a Rudolf Steiner College publication). Klocek says this about the 10 year old child in his first chapter, ‘Crossing the Rubicon’:

“It is not enough for the ten-year-old’s inwardly experienced images to simply spill out on the paper in creative abandon. The ten-year-old requires that the inner images have a more truthful relationship to the outer perception.” ( Klocek,3)

The author goes on to distinguish between image forming through observation and concept forming. By allowing each of these faculties to develop in their own way , they can then work together harmoniously. By learning to observe and draw the ground tone first and then a sequence of shapes, “the subject can be found in the general shapes floating in the ground. Separating the image-forming process of observation from the concept-forming process of rendering detail and proper proportion allows the mind to have time to transmute image into concept.” (Klocek,5)

My youngest daughter especially loved the careful observation and practice of shapes, followed by creating more drawings of animals and plants in lovely pencil shades and even chalk overlays on paper. The shapes were practiced on their own in a main lesson sketch book and her finished drawings accompanied her natural science main lesson books.

Klocek gives excellent examples and suggestions for using tone drawing to accompany natural science main lessons , but I did find that following the actual shape sequence could be a bit confusing for some parents. Therefore, I have created an outline below showing how I used the book to sequence the shapes and then artistically accompany the science lessons of fourth and fifth grades. I often worked alongside my children doing the shape drawings together with them. Or, you can have a lesson already drawn out on the paper to show them. Try to have a quiet space to do this so the children can observe and work uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes. It will be important to review each section before you teach it so that you will be comfortable with the shapes yourself. It is a very therapeutic practice for any adult who felt her own artistic expression was thwarted around the third or fourth grade. Enjoy the process of discovering the joys of Tone Drawing!



All lessons are practiced 2-3 times a week  as homework until next lesson. They should have a tone drawing horizontal type main lesson book where each lesson is clearly illustrated (step one , step two etc with each week noted).They can practice on sheets of paper in class with a parent, but their finished work goes into the sketch book.

Week One:  (also teach the idea of drawing the “ground” tone—page 5)

Step one :Practice drawing the open tone; step two: do the reverse (circle is white in the middle) This comes from Chapter two (Breathing Tone)

Step three: Do the Breathing tone and then step 4: do at least four sizes of tone circles (beginning of Chapter 3)

Homework drawing (or in class)—A  reverse tone full moon over either water or mountains (all in one color)(p.15)

 Week two: (from Chapter three—shape/gesture)

Step One: review tone circle sizes

Step two: Practice ovals

Step three: practice the egg shape and the reverse image egg (p.19)

Week Three: (This takes some practice!!) (pages 20-24)

Step one: practice the egg to drop

Step two: Practice the eyebrow

Step three:  Eyebrow together

Step 4: grass

Pick something from the book to illustrate—either a leaf shape or maybe sea animal like jelly fish (Our jelly fish was actually part of our man and animal work and we did it in two tones, (also did it as painting).

Week 4: Cross-stroking

Briefly described on page 12/13

Do this in four steps 1. Vertical stroke| 2. Angle left over vertical  \ 3. Angle right over vertical/ 4.  Horizontal

Week 5: The pear shape (p.20)

Practice the pear shape and then practice drawing the insect head on p.21. (go from the shape to the head)

Then can draw whole insect. And then draw the dog. Notice carefully how the shapes are within the animal.

Week 6:

go on to delta/fan (p.22-23). Be sure and do exercise on Fig. 3.6 on page 22 (can go into heart shape if desired)

We ended by doing the composite forest floor sketch on p. 26 (Fig.4.1)

Then, all throughout Man and Animal and Botany, some of the assignments would be to do them as a tone drawing.

You can add to the drawing by making it two to three colors. Sometimes we also created a ground tone overlay with chalk on tissue paper which was then smudged on to the page. The results really were lovely.


Barbara Benson

Christopherus Homeschool Consultant





Posted on January 17, 2016 in 4th Grade, 5th Grade, Active and Therapeutic Education, Art, Barbara, Science

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