Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Charcoal trees on gloomy days

I'm currently on a brief hiatus from my after-school art students, so I don't have any new student artwork to share, but thought I'd re-post some images from oldie but goodie posts, for those of you who are newer to my blog.   Today's selection was made because of the gloomy weather outside.  It's a very monochromatic day....no, not monochromatic... that would involve values of a color, and there's no color ... it's a very gloomy day, in neutral values only, outside.  Devoid of color.  The expected snow all has fallen as an icy rain thus far, and it's perfectly miserable.  I'd much prefer the predicted 6-12" of fresh fluffy snow.  I'm here on the computer because I could not convince myself to leave the house in the cold wet gloom. 
 All of these pics have been previously posted on the blog, either two, three, or four years ago, and were the work of my then-fourth grade students.  I love being able to share them with you again.
 Usually, in November, as the trees became bare, we had a good view of  'naked trees' out my classroom window.  For this project, my students used a choice of black or various values of gray paper, and charcoal (black and white charcoal pencils, vine charcoal, compressed charcoal, and some white chalk).  And kneaded erasers, which they always thought were the best thing ever.  Of course, you need rules.  If an eraser flew, the person that set it in motion was not allowed to use it again.  Because, as we know, they are made of rubber and will bounce.  And while I want the kids the enjoy using the erasers, I did not want to find them all over the floor later.
 Charcoal also requires some rules, but for my students, this was usually their first encounter with charcoal in the art room, and they did NOT want to blow it.  Yes, there were those occasions where someone's charcoal hands ended up on their face.  But, in my experience, no 9-year old has ever died from a dirty face, and yes, kids are washable!  Laugh and move on.  But put charcoal on someone else's face?  On purpose?  Then the student would be exposed to the wrath of Mrs. Brown.  Nobody wanted their charcoal taken away.  Some students definitely preferred the control of the charcoal pencils, while others enjoyed the freedom of the vine and compressed versions.  
 Students practiced making trees with branches that split and branched out, and for the most part were successful.  The basic tree was sketched lightly in pencil and then all work was done with charcoals and eraser.  I gave them the leeway to add extra details as desired.  Because the charcoal was new to them, some students caught on to the idea of highlighting the moonlit side of the tree, or creating tree texture, but I really pretty much let them make the artwork their own and didn't set too many parameters beyond the tree that branched to the top and (usually) the edges of the paper.  (No lollipop or broccoli trees allowed!)

Here's a bulletin board of some of them that were displayed together.   Crazy for me to realize that these students are all in 7th or 8th grade now! 
 
 I expect to bring back images from a couple of other old favorite posts.  The next one, I promise, will be something COLORFUL! 

8 comments:

  1. I love the light quality in these. I don't find them gloomy at all. (Of course I work often in charcoal)

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    1. Mary, I agree, the artwork isn't gloomy; it was gloomy the day I wrote the post, with a persistent cold icy rain! Today, it looks like the pictures, with fresh snow on tree branches and a light snow falling continually.

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  2. Somehow I must have missed seeing these in the original post -- they are new to me and I LOVE them!! I especially like all the details (swings, bunnies, etc) and the way kids interpreted the snow -- from gently drifting flakes to full out blizzard!!! It looks like one even drew the tree roots!!

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    1. Thank you, Christie! It looks just like this outside today! Fresh snow, gray-white sky, low contrast, no color!

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  3. I absolutely adore these! What a great idea for teaching value. What kind of charcoal do you prefer for the classroom? I've tried a few different brands and can't seem to find something that lasts long and looks good. For whatever reason, my kids seem super tough on it and wind up snapping them into teensy pieces.

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    1. Thanks, Jenny. The charcoal was whatever brand I could order cheaply from Nasco or School Specialty. Some kids (those who don't favor messy hands) much preferred the pencils, which we sharpened with a utility knife over the garbage can, and others preferred the compressed charcoal. The vine charcoal was less popular. For some reason I don't mind if compressed charcoal is broken. I don't think I ever actually gave kids full sticks. And across the board, everyone loved those kneaded erasers. The wrappers on them said 'kneaded rubber' and that always caused quite a few giggles...

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