Art Project for Teachers - Charcoal

This technique is sometimes called chiaroscuro. It is an Italian word for light and dark. It is a term usually used to describe the contrast between the tones in a painting. In this method the student will create a mid-tone background, then draw the dark tones and rub out the light tones with a rubber.

Charcoal Lesson

You need some willow charcoal, a large sheet of buff coloured sugar paper and paper towels.

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You need to crush the charcoal into a powder. Younger hands will find this harder to do and may need help.

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Use the paper towel to rub the charcoal onto the paper. Try to create a smooth tone all over the paper. Don't rub too much charcoal powder onto the surface or it will become too dark. There will be a right old mess in the room here, so put paper down on the tables. Using the paper towels helps to prevent hands getting too dirty but it won't stop it completely, so have soap and water ready to wash hands.

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Some students want to draw a pencil outline. This is ok but beware they don't smudge the charcoal ground too much. The student needs to draw the dark tones on the object.

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A good tip here is to squint at the object. This reduces the detail and improves the look of the tone. They tend to stop looking at the object and start to make things up, so they need to be constantly reminded to look at the object.

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You can use putty rubbers here, that can be moulded into drawing shapes, but a cheap rubber also works!

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Try to make the students understand that they should rub out the places where the light is falling on the surface of the object.

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Keep drawing with both rubber and charcoal until the drawing is complete. You need to know when to stop. Don't overwork the drawing. It should look a little rough. You can fix the drawing with fixative, but cheap hairspray does the job just as well.

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Students tend to try to draw outlines of shapes rather than areas of tone, so steer them away from outlining gently.

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