When I was a teen and drawing, my two favorite media were pen and ink (the kind you actually had to fill the nib) and charcoal. I still have a framed drawing I gave my dad one year for Christmas, done in pen and ink. Not bad some 40-plus years later. Most of my charcoal is still in an old sketchpad.

I always used charcoal pencils where you could peel off some of the pencil layer and expose more charcoal. And now I own a bunch of pencils of different hardnesses for drawing. I haven’t gone back to pen and ink, although the new supplies now would be wonderful.

I am reminded of Janet at MMU who created some amazing calligraphers, before the calligraphy fonts were so popular. She really worked at the details for serif and sans serif, along with the many styles, and kids were picking up side work doing calligraphy for others. I did a couple of lessons with the kids, and good hand-calligraphy is an art in itself.

In introducing the kids to charcoal I had them do some shading by pencil to get the feel of the different types of shading. Then I gave them charcoal sticks (the boys all wanted to know if they would “light up.”) and showed them how to hold and use them. One of the most interesting things in this lesson was trying to convey pressure – light and heavy – for my English-language learners. Overall, not an easy thing to do!

Some of the kids really got into the charcoal, and a couple discovered the rubbing for shading on the different layers. Some didn’t like it at all – too messy, and they had trouble adjusting the amount of pressure.

A successful lesson for all, and now the kids have another tool they can use when it comes to shading for one of the next assignments.

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