Pathway: Exploring Charcoal

Making charcoal animations


To help teachers navigate AccessArt resources, and to build an understanding of some of our key approaches to enabling creativity, AccessArt is creating a series of “pathways” around themes and topics which can be used in schools. See the pathways as steeping stones to help you create exciting creative learning journeys.

If you use our resources in schools please do tag @accessart (Facebook and Twitter) and @accessartorguk (Instagram) with any outcomes – we always love to see them! Any questions pls email

This pathway provides a framework for teachers to enable an exploration of charcoal. Pupils are given the opportunity to understand the kinds of marks they can make with charcoal, and also understand the importance of their own body in the role of making a drawing.

Pupils work in sketchbooks on on large sheets of paper and the final stage of the project is to pull their skills together to create dramatic drawings based upon observation and imagination

As with all AccessArt approaches, the emphasis is on a journey of building independent learning through lots of experimentation and creative risk taking, and balances sketchbook and exploratory work with high quality and varied final outcomes. 

The pathway can be condensed or expanded but on average will take 6-7 weeks. It can be adapted for all ages in KS 1 and 2. 

Before you Start: Teacher CPD

Journeyful Teaching & Learning

This pathway illustrates how important it is to take a “journeyful” approach to facilitating art. Read the Teaching for the Journey and not the Outcome resource here to understand more about why this approach is important. 

Start Your Journey!


Step 1. Make a Sketchbook!

Make a sketchbook as a placeholder for your exploration. Adapt the Elastic Band or Hole Punch Sketchbook resources – make the sketchbook as large as you can so that children can really explore using charcoal on the page.

Use sugar paper or cheaper cartridge paper for the pages. 

Step 2. Find Out What Charcoal Can Do

Use the Discovering Charcoal warm-up exercise to begin your journey and start to understand what you can (and can’t) make charcoal do.

Don’t forget to talk about the outcomes of the exercise, and revisit the exercise more than once. 

Step 3. Be Inspired by An Artist

Introduce children to an artist who uses their whole body in connection with a drawing tool and a drawing surface to make drawings. This widens their perception of what drawing can be and opens their thinking. Explore the videos of Caroline Denervaud as she makes her drawings with her whole body. 

Questions to ask:

Is this drawing?

What do you feel when you see the drawings being made?

What do you think the artist is trying to do?

Where else and how else could these kinds of drawings be made? 

Step 4. Drawing with Your Body

Explore the Drawing Spirals resource and the Drawing Like a Caveman resource to begin to explore how you can use your body, together with the charcoal, to make a drawing.

End your Journey Here or Take it Further…


Step 5. Using Observational & Imaginative Skills to Create Dramatic Drawings

Use the Drawing by TorchLight or the  first part of the Set Design resource to bring together the full range of marks discovered during the exercises above to create drawings with drama and mood.

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