Charcoal Drawing in 6th Grade
By Barbara Benson
There is not any discussion of charcoal drawing in the Rough Guide to Sixth Grade. As an artistic activity, I found it to be a very helpful exercise for my girls and this type of drawing is generally started in sixth grade in a Waldorf school. It complements emerging adolescents well and helps them cope with their personal struggles between shadow and light.
I took most of my inspiration from the text, Drawing and Painting in Rudolf Steiner Schools by Junemann and Weitmann. They devote a chapter to “Black and white drawing from classes 6 to 8”. They recommend going for walks prior to introducing charcoal drawing so the students become aware of the “great variety of shadows.”(52). Introducing the charcoal itself takes some practice as well. They first introduce simple exercises such as “working with the broadside of the piece of charcoal… not the point.” (52). The next steps would be to draw globes, cylinders and cones. It helps if a fairly big model can be used as a drawing inspiration. The form is created in the center open space with grey shades coming in from the edges. Gradually, the form is “sculpted”. The form’s side where the light source comes in stays white with increasing darkening towards the opposite side.
Another good source for inspiration is the book Painting in Waldorf Education by Bruin and Lichthart. They recommend charcoal drawing to accompany the physics lessons. First lessons include “transforming a white sheet into a grey one, with charcoal cloud-like effects….The skills which need to be developed are mainly in the searching for qualities in the grey-black field.” (129) Next they recommend creating darker spaces on the sheet, all without boundaries. Eventually, boundaries are created between light and darkness, “rounded curved boundaries as well as angular straight ones in all their variations, sharply edged obscured areas as well as white or grey “left open” spaces.” (130) They describe the boundaries between dark and light as bordering and within those areas light and dark is further developed, including shapes like mountains, valleys etc from the child’s imagination. The idea here is to learn to observe and draw a number of shades between black and white, perhaps as many as six.
Below are some examples of my youngest daughter’s drawings in sixth grade. Be sure to put a piece of paper towel on the drawings if keeping them in a large drawing main lesson book so they don’t smear.
Christopherus Homeschool Consultant