After my students create their sketchbooks in Drawing & Painting 1, we begin our Pen & Ink unit. In this unit students are introduced to many of the foundational concepts regarding line- expressive/gestural line, line value techniques, line weight and mark-making. Students also get the opportunity to try a variety of mark making tools and pens. I like to start students off with pen and ink because it cannot be erased and I think it helps students break away from a tentative drawing approach and to learn to commit to their mark making. This unit is one of the longest of the course and serves to lay the foundation for our other investigations. Students are led through a variety of activities to help them develop skills, confidence and to let go of artistic anxieties/ fear of making mistakes.
We begin the lesson by exploring dip pens and expressive/gestural line. Students try mark making with different types of music - seeing the range of marks they can create. We look at the work of Vincent Van Gogh and Ralf Steadman and discuss express the expressive qualities and variation of line weights that we see and students draw a storm using as many different kinds of line as they can. Students are encouraged to allow splatters, blotches and drips to happen.
We then discuss line value techniques and line textures. Students look at a variety of artworks that employ the strategies: hatching, cross-hatching, stippling, cross contour mark making and scumbling. Students practice these techniques using a variety of worksheets that they can add to their sketchbooks. Students use both sharpies and dip pens to do these activities/studies. If you are an educator and are interested in getting these handouts for your classroom I have them available here. We also watch timelapse videos of artists working using these techniques and discuss and identify how they are applied in different kinds of drawings. By using all of these modes of instruction I find that my students who are diverse learners in terms of their experience with the subject matter, ability/skill levels, language levels and developmental levels can access the content and learn to apply these techniques in their own work.
A few years ago I attended a mindfulness training at my school site and it was transformative in the way that I approach teaching and my personal art making practice. Using art making as a time to be present feels very natural and is a great way to introduce mindfulness to students. I introduce the concepts I learned in my training through the practice of Zentangle. Zentangle, or mindful drawing has been around for years and there are tons of books and websites that go into the practice in detail. For my students I try to focus on what I learned in my training- that our lives are full of stressors and distractions and that these feed a part of our brain called the amygdala which is responsible for our emotional responses to fear, sadness, and anger - basically our ability to cope with negative feelings and control our aggression. When we live under constant fear/anxiety we are operating from our amygdala. When we don't take time to be present and to escape the distraction of our thoughts/anxieties we often cannot respond in a way that is rational. So taking time each day to be present and to just pay attention to the world around us and the task at hand can help us break out of old patterns and remain calm even when negative emotions arise. zentangle itself is just a type of step by step doodling- so I just lead students through creating a "zentangle tile" line by line using a document camera I find that students are restless at first but settle into a very focused/ calm state. Most of my students love this activity- most surprisingly the squirrely freshmen boys typically like it the most!
Finally students create their own large pen and ink drawings on their own theme/inspiration. I leave the theme open because it is the start of the year and I want to get to know what kind of imagery students are interested in. For students who are new to art making or have learning challenges I offer tracing a silhouette or shape to fill with pen and ink designs as an entry point to the lesson. They can trace the outlines of silhouettes/ shapes as long as they transform them and make them their own through the addition of the pen and ink textures/lines. Students can use dip pens, sharpies, ball point pens, microns, or white gel pens for their drawings.
I'm a high school/middle school art teacher with 16 years of experience. I'm here to help art teachers free up more time and space in their lives through lesson ideas and ready to go content rich, engaging curriculum.