Drawing is a good way to slow children down to really look at something. Simpler drawing techniques are best because children will have different levels of comfort with drawing. Some will have definite "talent" in this area, others will resist it because they feel expected to produce something that others will admire or because they have already had a negative experience with drawing. Keep the class focused on the experience rather than the product.
There are two basic types of drawing: non-representational or imaginative, and representational or observational. Both can support the intention of spiritual expression through a personal meditative time and both can connect with themes in the classroom.
Examples of non-representational or imaginative drawings
- Draw in sand with fingers or chop sticks on cookie sheets, then smooth it out and draw again.
- Draw with markers or crayons or oil pastels to how music makes you feel, starting with black then adding colors slowly.
- Write your name very large on a sheet of paper over and over, overlapping the writing, then color and decorate it with symbols for how you feel inside yourself. This is a good introductory activity at the beginning of the church year for older children who can write in cursive.
Leading from individuals into the group
- Have one child make a mark on a piece of paper, then pass it on to the next person to make a mark and pass it on. Repeat the sequence until the original comes back to the first person and show the group what it has become. Have children share how the process felt.
- Have each child draw a design on one section of paper with pencil or markers, folding it so only one inch of their drawings shows, then pass it on to the next person. Encourage the children to create a design rather than a specific image. That person draws and connects new lines to the existing ones, folds the paper, and passes it on. In the end you will have several sheets of paper with group drawings on it. It's a little like playing the telephone game and can be used to illustrate how ideas change and get distorted.
- Many curricula rely on making murals to help children translate ideas into a visual form. How you frame the process determines if a child connects to the information at an intellectual level or at a spiritual level. For example, if you ask children to tell a part of the story in their own drawing, they will show their knowledge of the story. If you ask children to show how they feel about the story you will get a deeper piece. Another approach is to have the children respond to anything in the story that speaks to them and then have the children figure out where each response would go in the story's timeline.
Examples of representational or observational drawing
- For contour drawing use a pencil to draw the shapes found in stones. This technique leaves the drawing open to how the child perceives the stone rather than on what the stone would look like in a photograph. These drawings may become personalities and figures through the child's imagination. This activity could be used after a field trip in which children gathered stones. It could be used as an opening ritual when the teacher provides stones. Choose stones with different shapes and fissures rather than smooth river rocks. Contour drawing can also be done with cut-open vegetables and fruits andcolored pencils.
Creating Mandalas: Mandalas are circular drawings made of shapes, colors, and sometimes imaginative forms. Begin with several preprinted patterned mandalas to color, cut apart and trade to create new ones. Have children combine all the mandalas to create a group mandala, then offer sheets of black or white construction paper with circles drawn on them for individual mandalas. After viewing some Hindu or contemporary mandalas, let the children construct their own patterns.
Almost anything can be used to draw on: brown paper bags cut into sheets, old computer paper, cardboard, cereal boxes turned inside out and cut apart, thick paper that comes packed with mail order items. Sometimes children can play with the materials precisely because they are everyday items, rather than more precious ones. Having a variety of surfaces to choose from sometimes encourages children who might be reluctant to draw. You can find castoff paper by recycling all kinds of paper waste from your home and office for a few weeks before your classes begin.
Of course, it is lovely to have white drawing paper or thick sketch paper but it is not necessary. Personally, I have sometimes wadded up a perfect piece of paper then smoothed it out because I was afraid I would ruin it with my attempt at drawing. Avoid newsprint as much as possible except for paper making or paper mâché because it tears easily, creating much frustration.
General: Younger children need very simple tools for drawing that are easy to hold. Older children like more sophisticated and abundant materials. They sometimes feel that they are too old for a particular tool, such as crayons. Regular pencils can be a good beginning drawing tools but be sure to have a pencil sharpener and some large erasers handy for children. The younger the child, the thicker the pencils. Colored pencils can be added as well.
Markers are more permanent, but be sure that they are in working order. Children are frustrated by dried-out markers so check them and throw out the old ones. There are now all sorts of fancy markers, some that erase, some that are vibrant colors, some with brush end or calligraphy heads. that are fun to use. Make sure that you use washable markers for younger children.
Chalk on dark paper is good for making marks and can be rubbed to blend colors. This type of drawing does not last.
Oil pastels may be used for older children as an alternative to crayons. Use water soluble ones, they can be blended with water on a brush or sponge. I don't recommend pastels for young children because you need to use a spray fixative to preserve them.