I love this shadow drawing experience because it can be as simple or as complex as you choose. Artists of any age can sink into this activity that only requires pencil and paper but hits on some big ideas!
Think big here. If you have a roll of paper or even a great big sketchbook go get it now. Any size paper can work but it is fun to have plenty of room to spread out. Besides paper all you need is a pencil, some great natural light, and a hard surface to draw on.
Encourage your student to play around with their composition. If the weather cooperates head outside in search of beautiful sunshine and interesting shapes. Kids will need to have a sturdy place to draw so help them think about finding shapes that fall on a cement pad or a table or bring a drawing board with you.
If it’s not nice out plop down on the floor in front of a window or door. Drag potted plants, plastic animals, toys, or a good friend into the sunshine so the shadows fall on to the paper.
Shadow drawing seems easy. It’s not. Shadows move and change. They overlap and make odd shapes that don’t seem reflect the actual object. That’s part of the fun but can be frustrating, especially if you have a perfectionist on your hands. The awesome part of this can be a quick exercise that can be done over and over in just a few minutes. I don’t mind the idea of doing these exercises quickly because I think it takes the pressure off of your artist to be perfect and brings some spontaneity.
Positive and negative space…
The shadow drawing exercise is totally a stand alone activity. Stop there and it’s still an interesting take on drawing, light, shadows, and shapes.
But considering the shadows and the background as positive and negative space adds another element to the process. (Check out this free printable book about the elements of art. It has a simple explanation of positive and negative shape if you’re interested in exploring this concept further with your kiddos.)
Choose one type of space to which to add color. We chose the negative space, or the space around our object, sometimes referred to as the background. You could also add color to the positive space. We chose to pay attention to the negative space in the composition because it is usually less of a focal point and therefore more unexpected.
Pick your medium. You could add color in a myriad of ways; chalk pastels, watercolor paints, or tempera paints. We actually used these tempera cakes. They are awesome for big areas or times when you want to paint but don’t want a big mess.
Painting the negative space really highlights the positive shapes as well.