18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Tuesday, May 27, 1913: It’s raining again like it did last week. Nothing much doing.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Rainy days can be the perfect time to work on artwork or crafts. Did Grandma ever while away a rainy afternoon making pencil drawings?
I recently came across a hundred-year-old magazine for teachers called School Arts Magazine. The January, 1913 issue had an article about how to teach students to make pencil drawings.
Do children today still learn how to make pencil drawings in school? . . .or is that considered “so old-fashioned”?
The Possibilities of the Pencil
With the many new elements that are crowded into the topic of drawing in the public schools—it is easy to lose sight of the fact that after all the universal medium of expression is the pencil. Rightly employed the marvelous possibilities of the pencil are astonishing.
The proper teaching of pencil-rendering is not difficult if correctly approached. The tendency of every child is to make fine, hard lines instead of the broad, rich stroke which gives character to the result. With firm, smooth lines, much of color, texture, and light and shade can be pictured in a suggestive manner.
At first, detail should be almost entirely left out. The more a child “fusses” and “finishes” his drawing the more labored and unsatisfactory the results appear to be.
See to the condition of the pencil. It should be sharpened to a blunt point well supported by the wood, and the point flattened on one side to give it a form capable of making lines of all widths and qualities.
Before attempting a problem in drawing in light and shade, the pupil should gain some facility in handling the pencil—by practicing strokes and lines of varying width and color. The drill shown in Fig. 1 will give skill in laying tone flat and solid in appearance.
After this is accomplished the pictorial sketch may be attempted (Fig. II).
In beginning a sketch first decide upon the point of interest. Much must be omitted and many contrasts exaggerated in order to keep the attention centered upon this point.
After deciding what the central point is to be, a light sketch, in as few lines as possible, should be made. These first lines must be accurate, and no erasing should be done. The masses of light and dark are next considered, beginning with the planes in the important part of the drawing.
Select simple, flat masses and lay the tones in with the direct stroke already mastered in the preliminary practice (see Fig. III).
The direction of the stroke can be made to express contour and texture, and should be carefully studied from that viewpoint.
The sharp, vigorous accents of black will produce the contrast which brings out the light and sparkle of the sketch and adds so much to its beauty. The contrasts should be emphasized at the center of interest, and diminished into soft grays as they recede into the less important parts toward the background. .
It is easy to over-emphasize out-of-door nature subjects, such as flowers, fruit, and vegetables. The boys especially are more interested in the common objects of everyday life.
The pencil is by far the most convenient and best medium for most of the work that is included in a well-considered course of art instruction.