Tuesday, June 3, 2014

5th Grade Charcoal Still Life Drawings

Teaching a charcoal still life drawing to my 5th grade students has been one of my favorite and most rewarding lessons since I began teaching. I use a desk lamp as a spot light, and all the vases are spray painted white, so there are no details besides the shadows. All the vases are glued to a board, so they stay put when I quickly transition between classes (one thing college doesn't teach you is how to quickly transform your art room from a 5th grade classroom to a 1st grade room in a matter of 5 minutes or less!).

I think one of the reasons I love this lesson so much is that I personally don't enjoy working in charcoal (I hate getting my hands all black!), and the subject matter of a still life is one of my least favorites. Yes, you heard that right--I like teaching this because I don't actually like doing it! When I teach something I love (like ceramics), and I have that one student say, "do I have to do this?" or "is this good enough?", I take it personally; I just shared one of my favorite things with these students, and they don't appreciate it?!?! But with a charcoal still life, I have to try to get the kids excited, and I have to try to engage them, and keep them  focused and on task; and when I succeed with the majority of them, I feel wonderful! And when one student says, "do I have to finish this?" I can truly sympathize.

I'm curious if any other art teachers have a lesson about something they don't really enjoy doing themselves, and how you feel about teaching it? Leave me a comment if you have any stories to share!


  1. Can you please tell me how you do this project? Are they drawing from actual objects or photographs? Is there an activity on shading you do before shading in the vases?

    1. Please refer to this post on the same project for details :).

    2. And as for a shading activity before this assignment, I have them draw a single vase for a practice day. I draw it with them, showing them how to make the shape symmetrical, and then I point out shadows as I draw them.