“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~ Thoreau
I have always loved a path or walking trail. I especially love spying the curve of the path up ahead and the promise of more to discover in the woods. We have several really great walking trails close to us. We even have our very own, short little curve of a trail through our backyard. So, when we enjoyed a mini-unity study of Henry David Thoreau, we focused in on nature and the woods – with an art lesson.
We learned that Henry David Thoreau was a naturalist, author, poet and more. Here are a few more links for learning:
- About Thoreau from The Thoreau Society
- We particularly like ‘Observing Like Henry’ – from a free a pdf download Henry David Thoreau: The Making of a Naturalist – Walden Pond Reservation for Teachers
Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all. ~Henry David Thoreau
- The Thoreau Reader – annotated works. Thoreau is best know for his work, Walden, which he wrote while living a simplistic life of solitude at Walden Pond.
For our art project we focused on something dear to us. Our little walkway is one that the children’s uncle helped us clear. Now it is a well-worn path.
To the Woods Chalk Pastel
First, we gathered our chalks. Using a plain piece of printer paper (you can use Canson paper), Nana showed us how to draw what looks like a mountain – our path. We used our brown pastel stick. Next, we drew the trees with a black pastel stick. Then, turning our sky blue pastel stick on its side, we skumbled the color above the trees. Finally, we blended the blue sky with our fingers.
Next, we used either a light gray or pale blue chalk to add sky color behind the trees. We also added the pine needles on our trees. Nana showed us how to do this by turning our dark green stick of chalk on its side and making a short mark – several times across each tree trunk. Make your green just slightly slanted toward the path below.
Purple underbrush? Yes, purple is a wonderful background color for our underbrush and path. Make some small, circle type underbrush. Then blend it well with your finger. Next, add some dark green at the bottom of your underbrush, defining your path. Blend and ‘pull’ the darker color onto your path. This color gives your path depth and perspective.
We turn our attention to the trees once more before we finish up our path. Take your light green and add a few more ‘lines’ of pine needles to your trees. Also place some light green undergrowth in your woods. This gives the impression of dappled light deep in your woods.
You might even want to use your white chalk to add touches of sunlight further down your path. See the difference in Nana’s two pastels? One she did before she taught the children, to give them an idea of what they were doing (on the left). One she completed as she was teaching (on the right).
“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” –Henry David Thoreau
(thanks to my friend, littlesanctuary, for posting that quote to Twitter.)
- Print this lesson: Just click the green, ‘print-friendly’ button at the top, left of this post. You can choose to print the lesson with or without photos. By clicking the ‘remove photos’ box, you may print the text directions only.
- A note on chalk pastels: Pastels are an easy, forgiving medium. Fun for children and adults alike! Details on the pastels and paper we use, how and where to purchase, and links to all of Nana’s other pastel lessons (over 45 lessons now) are all contained in the post Pastels plus links to tutorials. A simple set is very affordable. Nana also teaches acrylic lessons.
- The practical aspects of a mess: Pastels are blessedly messy. We always have baby wipes close by to wipe hands. We wear something we don’t mind getting stained or don a smock.
Be sure to check out all the mini-units celebrating birthdays in July!
You might be interested in my Free Art Tutorials Pinterest board and our other birthday art lessons:
- Just add chalk pastels and paper for a whole year of tutorials! A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels.