By Katherine Roncalio

Char art! Students collected a bucketful of long and narrow willow and rose sticks and they turned them into homemade drawing charcoal using Kelpie’s little stove.

We watched a movie on the Brazilian rain forest and we looked in books and saw pictures of gigantic leaves, ferns, and vines. We saw illustrations of big butterflies, fish, parrots. The kids were impressed. We talked about how the Amazon rainforest is where terra pretta, biochar, is from. We looked at pictures of ancient charcoal cave art. We got art books out and saw how charcoal is used by artists for sketching.
Kayapo Indians live in the Amazon Rainforest
Getting excited about how big and lush and full of life the Amazon rainforest is and how cool charcoal is to draw with, we put on some Brazilian music and got prepared to draw with our own homemade drawing charcoal. Each child had a large sheet of smooth newsprint and lots of room. Everyone got several pieces of their homemade drawing charcoal. We examined our pieces, some were chunky some thin.

I wanted the kids to just experiment with their charcoal, making thin and broad lines, squiggles, dark patches and smudges. No pictures yet. The children loved it, some of them especially liked smudging the charcoal and lightening dark patches. There were a lot of fantastic and abstract shapes. Their charcoal worked great!

Now the kids were ready to draw a real picture, so we did some quick three minute sketches. I found a picture of a big Amazon leaf and I walked around briefly showing the kids. I set the timer to three minutes and the children started drawing leaves and vines. After three minutes we all walked around looking at each other’s sketches. Next we drew butterflies for three minutes, then toucans. Kids were really getting into drawing and some needed more charcoal. Their pictures were fantastic! Big leaves and butterflies. Toucan parrots with big bills. Squiggles and dark patches. Their pictures looked like the Amazon rainforest. Several minutes of drawing like left everyone’s hands good and black. Washing off was easy with our bamboo charcoal soap.

The students were very excited about how well their own homemade charcoal worked. The kids said they want to experiment more with their drawing charcoal. They said that their next charart project was going to be… charcoal handprints!