January is the month for New Year’s Resolutions…. for examining our habits and thinking about changes we should make. Kids hear adults talking about this so it’s not a new idea to them. This means we can seize this opportunity to talk with students about their own habits that may not be serving them well and suggest ways they can change these habits to improve their artwork!
As an Art teacher, if you had to choose just one art-related habit for your students to really focus on and improve this year, what would it be? For me, the choice would be easy…. I would choose learning to control the amount of pressure students apply when drawing or sketching with a pencil… learning to draw with a light touch is a skill worth developing.
This may seem like such a simple thing, but as with many simple things, its impact can be far reaching. Visual communication is a skill your students will use their entire lives, whether or not they pursue an art-related career or hobby. Once they make a habit of drawing with a light touch, this will not only help them with their artwork, but will also carry over into their adult life beyond any art-related application. Quick, light sketches are the key to communicating visually in both home and work settings.
Most projects and ideas begin with a sketch or a simple drawing. How many times have you seen your students get frustrated right at the beginning of a project by trying to make changes to lines that are already too dark to be erased without leaving a “ghost” of the original image? I’ve often felt like a “broken record” reminding students to press lightly when they draw! You can always make your lines darker when you decide you’re happy with them, but erasing a line completely can be impossible if you’ve pressed too hard to begin with.
So here’s an idea to help your students develop this habit of drawing with a light touch. Try beginning each class with a quick challenge or contest. Pass out some scrap paper or inexpensive printer paper and have students “warm up” their drawing hand by quickly drawing as many circles as they can, as lightly as they can. If you make it a “contest”, you can walk around the room and look for the lightest circles you can find. Students will enjoy showing you their best circles. I’ve been amazed by students who can’t seem to make themselves press lightly when I remind them to, but can suddenly make circles that are almost invisible once there’s a competition involved!
Try this activity with other lines and shapes, too. You can call out different lines to draw (i.e. vertical, horizontal, diagonal, wavy, etc.) or different shapes (ovals, squares, triangles, etc.) to mix things up a bit and give students even more practice controlling their pencil pressure. Sometimes students can practice this warm-up right on the back of their projects, then just turn their paper over when it’s time to start working.
Offer this warm-up each time students get ready to draw, and encourage “light touch doodling”. You’ll watch students’ drawings improve as they learn to draw with a light touch, quickly able to make the changes they want without having to erase so hard.
I’ve seen this easy activity really make a difference for my students…. try it and let me know how it works for you!