TAKING CARE OF YOUR CHALK, CHALKBOARD, AND SPACE
There are many ways to begin a chalkboard drawing, but most importantly start with a clean surface. The aesthetics of the chalkboard, like everything else in the classroom, should be one of care and beauty. There is beauty in something as simple as cleanliness. To draw on a board that has streaks of old chalk wiped all around detracts from the time and effort you are putting into your next drawing. Also, the chalk tray should be as free from dust and pieces of chalk as much as possible. Start with a clean slate!
It may be helpful to keep your chalks organized by color. Anything can be used for this such as origami folded boxes, small baskets, organizing trays made for bolts, screws or crafts, cardboard jewelry boxes, etc. This makes it easy and saves precious time when you are looking for a particular color. It also enhances the tidiness of your work area and keeps the chalk from being marked up by all the colors next to it.
For cleaning chalkboards, a couple of priceless tips may serve useful. One is that I have found that a microfiber furniture polishing cloth will easily wipe away chalk without leaving any streaks. This is perfect for times when you aren’t able to actually wash the board between drawings or when erasing daily work from the board. They are inexpensive and long lasting. I have found them for just over two dollars at home improvement stores. The dust can be shaken out of them before they need to be washed. A second tip is to always wash the chalk tray first. This prevents you from picking up more chalk with a wet cloth or sponge and dragging it back over the board.
In order to preserve its integrity, the way you wash your chalkboard should depend on the type of chalkboard you use. If your chalkboard is a painted surface, like wood, you will want to wash it with as little water as possible and dry it immediately. This also applies to chalk boards that are framed in wood. After as much chalk as possible has been erased with a cloth, use another clean cloth or soft sponge to wash the board. Make sure to have a clean bucket of water to rinse your sponge out frequently. This will decrease the number of times you have to wipe the board, which will help preserve it, and will more effectively and economically wash away any remaining chalk dust.
If you have a tendency to let your drawings take over the whole board, and you share your board with subject teachers, you may consider first drawing a border around the area you are allowing yourself. For some this also helps to keep perspective and spatial awareness. It can also be useful if you are doing the picture for the students while they do theirs to give them an orientation to follow.
Once the space you are using is established, lay down a background color. Keep in mind that if you are doing this drawing in front of the children they will not have the same capabilities to color over with their crayons as you do with chalk. Let’s assume you are preparing this drawing ahead of time and will guide the students during class on paper. It gives your drawing more depth when colors are blended to make up the background. Consider the overall mood of the picture. Is it a warm and sunny day? Is it underwater with rays of light shining through? Is it stormy? The stroke of the chalk is very similar to the stick and block crayons that the students use. Keep this in mind when guiding the students through the drawings, especially in the lower grades of first through fourth. Chalk is also very forgiving. If it isn’t what you were trying to achieve, simply draw right over it!
SOME SIMPLE EXERCISES TO TRY
Some of the following exercises can be found in Blackboard Sketching by Frederick Whitney (1908). This book was incredibly helpful to me as a beginner, not having had any formal training in the arts. The examples given are easy to follow. This book can also be found online at http://www.kellscraft.com/BlackboardDrawings/BlackboardSketchingContentPage.html.
When using the chalk, don’t be afraid to break it into a smaller piece to achieve the stroke you are working for. You can also change the angle at which you are holding the chalk to achieve varying widths to your stroke. A lighter or darker tone is produced by varying the pressure placed upon the chalk. Also, holding the chalk more at one end, rather than in the middle, allows more pressure to be applied to the side you are holding resulting in a graded stroke from side to side. With the practice and use of only a few strokes of the chalk, one can achieve a great many things in chalkboard drawings.
When a texture is needed, as in drawing a woven basket, place the chalk in a vertical position and then pull it across the board, varying the pressure frequently to give it the effect seen below.
The same technique that was used above in varying the tone can be applied when drawing grass. Using short strokes with the chalk held at an angle, move the hand up and down with a slight curve at the bottom. You can also use the point of the chalk to add accents. The trunk of a tree is achieved using the same technique of applying more pressure to one side. Use this technique where there may be light shining on that side of the tree. The apples are achieved using a short curving stroke, first to the left, then to the right. Use the point of the chalk to add stems and leaves.
In drawing plants, an entirely different stroke can be used. Holding the chalk in a horizontal position, drawing it downward, twist the chalk as you go until it is in a vertical position. In this way you will show the curvature of the bending or twisting leaves. Practice the strokes in different directions. When drawing leaves such as palm leaves, draw first very delicately the leaves in the background then adding more pressure to the chalk for the leaves more up front.
Another technique for drawing plants like a fern is to first draw in a few main lines for foliage and then, holding the chalk horizontally and swinging it back and forth, the strokes should get shorter and twist gradually to a vertical position. Using the same technique, beginning at different angles, more foliage can be drawn in. The same technique can be used to draw in the foliage of a tree. Use lighter and darker shades of whatever color you are using to show more depth and character.
Using the strokes already demonstrated, obtain the effects of snow, rocky terrain, a sunny or cloudy day, by simply varying the tone or amount of pressure on the chalk.