Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I don't know about you, but if I don't feel comfortable with a art media then I tend not to use it while teaching. For example I dread using chalk pastels. I never learned how to use them.
During my collage figure drawing class we sketched with vine charcoal and thin sticks of hard pastels and I could figure that out, I pretended they were thick pencils. Then we were asked to replicate a photo using chalk pastels. My professor was puzzled by my lack of pastel skill wondering how I got to a 400 level life drawing class without having previous pastel experience. I didn't know what to tell him, I had taken all the pre-reqs for the class and had never been presented with a pastel project before. I muddled through the project ending up with a smudgy, color distorted, disappointment.
So I guess it is not too surprising that when I choose mediums for my students I pass over the chalk pastels. We have the cheap sets from the school district. The kind that are 48 colors for $5. I know the low quality is part of the problem. The kids don't like their smudgy, dusty, thick lined nature. They seem to crumble in my hands and the feeling of the chalk on my fingers makes my skin crawl.
I bring out the pastels when we study Degas and to fill in black glue line drawings. We (the kids and I) can deal with the messy nature of chalk when it is contained in glue lines. But in my heart I know I am creating a new generation of art students who avoid the media. I worry about sending my middle school students to high school with little pastel experience.
With that in mind I have decided this will be the year I use chalk pastel with my middle school students. I have been stalling but I can hold out no longer. We have been sketching stuffed animals and beanie babies and the kids are ready to do their final drawings. My first thought was to have them paint their drawings, but I know that pastels will capture the soft feeling of the stuffies much better. I have been practicing after school so I can at least demo without grimacing at the feel of the chalk but I still am not feeling confident in my own skills, let alone my ability to help the kids learn how to use them.
Any suggestions? We are going to use (cheap) watercolor paper for texture, and I have some Q-tips for blending, I shook the pastels in rice to clean them and I have a can of Aqua-net for when we are done. Should we be blending with our fingers? Do you work light to dark or dark to light? Do I need to break down and buy better pastels (out of my own pocket) or can we make this work with cheep stuff? Does anyone know of a good book or online video to show me how to better use these little buggers?