Drawing Feathers: Perfect for Mark Making

By Paula Briggs

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Our Drawing Feathers workshop with children aged 6 to 10 was a great opportunity for the children to put to use all the mark making skills they had been learning over the past few weeks, and I was amazed by the quality of the drawings – some were really sophisticated in their use of materials, line and colour.

The image below of a Peacock Feather drawn by John Ruskin inspired the workshop – I used to visit the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield. His drawn feather is small but it draws you in.

Drawing Feathers. Peacock Feather by John Ruskin. Collection of the Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield

Peacock Feather by John Ruskin. Collection of the Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield

 

Oil Pastel and Graphite Feather Drawn by Six Year Old

Oil Pastel and Graphite Feather Drawn by Six Year Old

Warm Up

We started our workshop with some blind drawing, using a cardboard screen and writing pens as the drawing material. Blind drawing is a classic drawing exercise which helps participants practice close looking and also practice matching speed of drawing with speed of looking.

The children spent about five minutes on their blind drawing, looking only at the feathers (and not at their drawing) as they carefully made their drawings under the cardboard screen. I stressed to children before they began that they shouldn’t expect their drawings to look like feathers, but the resulting drawings had a charm and beauty of their own. It was quite difficult for some to continue to concentrate so carefully for five minutes – this exercise gets easier with practice – but it is worth persevering and it makes a great exercise to transition from one part of your day to another.

Making a blind drawing of a feather

Making a blind drawing of a feather

 

Blind Drawing of a Feather

Blind Drawing of a Feather

 

Beautiful intense lines...

Beautiful intense lines…

 

Elegant composition...

Elegant composition…

 

Areas of looking...

Areas of looking…

 

Beautiful feathery lines...

Beautiful feathery lines…

 

Careful looking...

Careful looking…

 

Love the way the marks leave the form...

Love the way the marks leave the form…

We then moved on to the main part of the workshop and spent the next 40 minutes making drawings of feathers. The children were free to choose their own materials (from graphite, charcoal, chalk, oil pastel, charcoal and soft erasers), but I asked the children to really experiment with layering the materials one on another.

The children responded well and were able to let the marks made by various materials work in their own right and in combination. For example detailed, specific marks made by sharp pencils were layered with smudges and broad shapes. Beautiful tensions then resulted from the combined materials.

The children worked energetically for 40 minutes – if they began to flag I gave them individual challenges to stretch their exploration of materials and forms. Five minutes before the end many children suddenly made huge break throughs in terms of pushing the materials which reminds us that we need to allow children time and space to develop and discover.

Feather Drawing Workshop

Feather Drawing Workshop

 

Pencil Drawing

Pencil Drawing

 

Charcoal and marks made by an eraser

Charcoal and marks made by an eraser

 

Oil Pastel and Graphite Drawing of Feather by Child

Oil Pastel and Graphite Drawing of Feather by Child

 

Pastel, Chalk, Graphite

Pastel, Chalk, Graphite

 

Layered graphite and pencil

Layered graphite and pencil

 

Charcoal

Charcoal

 

Charcoal pencil

Charcoal pencil

 

Silhouette feather and pastels

Silhouette feather and pastels

 

Pencil

Pencil

 

Draw from life if you can!

Draw from life if you can!

3 Comments

  1. Teaching Children How to Draw | AccessArt: Visual Arts Teaching, Learning & Practice
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 10:05:47

    [...] Drawing Feathers: Perfect for Mark Making. Inspired by the Peacock Feather Drawing by John Ruskin [...]

    Reply

  2. Krisite
    Apr 14, 2012 @ 22:52:00

    This is a beautiful exercise. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

  3. Subject Matter for Thoughtful Drawings | AccessArt: Visual Arts Teaching, Learning & Practice
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 14:14:14

    [...] Drawing Feathers: Perfect for Mark Making Encouraging an exploration of soluble graphite, pencil, wash, ink and was resist. [...]

    Reply

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