By Paula Briggs
This resources shares a simple exercise to help children (or adults) appreciate how seeing simple shapes can help improve drawing skills, and how one material can be used in a variety of ways to create different qualities of line.
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This resources shares how I did this activity in a community arts setting. Please read the info above to see how it can be adapted the classroom environment and what it offers pupils and teachers.
I took in some ornamental gourds as a subject matter that had a strong yet simple shape which would cast a shadow on white paper and display shade within its mass. Eggs, apples, lemons etc would also work well – but keep away from perfect spheres like balls which are not so forgiving in terms of their outside line.
I also provided Indian ink. After this exercise we were going on to draw fossils with ink, and this exercise was about giving children the opportunity to explore the types of marks which we can make with ink, via a limited subject matter. I poured the ink into small cups, leaving half the ink undiluted, and the remainder I diluted 1:5 ink to water.
Our drawing tools were brushes and feathers, which I had cut at angles to use as nibs.
I demonstrated how I would like the children to make a simple study of the gourds by seeing and drawing three shapes:
1) Starting with the undiluted ink and using the feather nibs, I asked them to make a simple line drawing of the outside of the gourds – if their feather had plenty of ink they could add a few lines of detail inside the line drawing to help convey texture. (We kept the drawings A4 size so that the feathers didn’t have to be re-dipped in ink to make a large drawing).
2) I then asked them to see the shadow on the white paper and using the undiluted ink again, though this time with a brush, to make a single brush mark to describe this shadow.
3) The third shape I asked them to see was the tonal shading on the side of the gourd which helped describe its volume. The children used the diluted ink this time, with a brush, to make a single stroke to describe this form.
The children loved the ink’s density. We talked during the process about the difference between watercolour and ink, and how if you applied more water to wet ink it ran, but if you let the ink dry then used a wash over the top it stayed as a separate layer. I loved the sculptural directness of the drawings which emerged.