Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels

Little did we know what would result on that February day we were snowed in here in the South. The children and I didn't realize until then what we had been missing—the joy of art.

“Life is a great big canvas. Throw all the paint on it you can!” ~Danny Kaye

My mother, also known as Nana, pulled out her box of soft chalk pastels. She opened the box on our kitchen table. The colors were amazing—a delight! She then showed us how to turn a chalk stick on its side and spread the sand. We learned to make clouds heavy with moisture with just a touch of purple underneath. That day we created a path to the beach, warm and sunny, on our kitchen table while snow piled up outside the back door.

There was Nana, a master artist, teaching five children of different ages and abilities. From that start, our art times with Nana became fairly regular. We asked her, “What about a tree?” Later, in the fall, we made pumpkins and apples in rich color. And we learned to add just a touch of white to show the direction of the light. The next summer we made full and beautiful hydrangeas.

I realized something recently that helped me understand why we love chalk pastels so much. Didn't we all start with chalk? Maybe a nice, thick piece of chalk helped you make big circles on the driveway. It's a familiar medium. What's especially wonderful is how forgiving chalk pastels are. If you make a mark you don't like, simply smudge it away or layer over it with more color.

I do have to warn you that this is a messy medium. But as we say, pastels are blessedly messy. We just don a smock and keep the baby wipes close. I assure you, clean-up is easy.

If it's not messy, it's not fun!

There are really no age requirements for chalk pastels. A child just has to be able to hold a chalk stick. No special skills are needed. Supplies are simple and inexpensive: just paper and a set of soft chalk pastels. Chalks can be found at your local craft store for around 5 to 10 dollars.

All the times my mother taught the children, we shared on my blog in tutorial form. And that's how it all started—how we discovered a love of art and made it a priority in our homeschool. That love has grown and spread into more learning in so many other areas.

Now, nearly three years later, we share those art times with you in E-book form. Nana, the children, and I have a whole year of chalk art for you to enjoy. Do one a week. There are 45 tutorials to enjoy, 10–15 minutes a lesson.

In the past years of enjoying art, my ears have been tuned to many comments from others. They would love to do some art but the prospect seems overwhelming. We hope that our tutorials will solve a problem and meet a need like it did for us.

Soft chalk pastels offered us a simple start, a jumping off place for more art in other media. Then our art times led to art appreciation. Chalk pastels slowly swung the door open for us. They showed me how we could do it, and showed us all what sheer joy art can be.

Won't you join us? Brush, smudge, sketch that love of art into your homeschool?

Homeschooling for over a dozen years now, Tricia faces a daily dose of chaos with five children. She shares a mixture of art lessons, frugal and allergy-friendly recipes, and all things practical at Hodgepodge. She and her husband, Steve, are also owners at Curriculum Choice and Habits for a Happy Home.

Our Nana and her family have always been artistic folks. Her given name is Lucia, and she was awarded a wonderful art scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation in her sophomore year of college. But love intervened and she married, had babies, and left the scholarship behind. For years she and one of her sisters painted murals in schools and for the children’s ward in our local hospital. She started pastel lessons three years ago, finally finding what she calls “her art.” She is on a mission to share just how satisfying, cost effective, and easy pastel painting is.

P.S. Tricia is generously offering a special discount on her new book, A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels, to our readers—use discount code USAB to receive a $5 discount when you buy the E-book here!


  1. So wonderful to see a collection of all of Nana's wonderful tutorials! My boys(ages 5,7, and 9) have enjoyed Nana's tutorials and ask for them all the time! My oldest decided to use his creations as Christmas gifts and everyone was so impressed with his work! It is a blessed mess that I shyed away from for a long time, but once I finally gave in, the mess is nothing compared to the joy we have received from Nana's tutorials! Thank you Tricia for sharing these wonderful tutorials!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing that with us, Heidi! I can't think of a more personal Christmas gift than handmade artwork. I'm sure your family was thrilled to receive it!

  2. I feel a bit protective. This has been my little secret that I've shared with my friends. Our online afternoons with Nana. Visitors come to our home and smile large at our creation. I get all of the blessings and praise. I drop my head and say - It's simple. Nana does it for us step by step. I have enjoyed printing out the tutorials, spreading them before the boys, our family and friends, watching them recreate beautiful scenes. Many times, the 5 year old's work out shines the 15 year old. So as this work, piled into an ebook, hits the shelves, I feel so excited. Like we were a part of it. Encouraging Nana to come again, so that we would benefit. As you offer this up, I hope others trust, that they can do it. The supplies are inexensive, the mess is fun, the results - time spent in art - are extraordinary. So happy for those who invest - not only in dollars, but in a few minutes a week. It will become a highlight of their home. Congratulations Hodgepodge Clan!!!

    1. Thanks for sharing that with us, Angie! It really is a wonderful book and we are so excited to be able to include it in our giveaway this week!

  3. It's truly a blessing to be a part of transferring Nana's talents into something families can use and enjoy. So thankful for the many artistic talents He has given her! Thank you, dear friends, Heidi and Angie, for all your encouragement and your sweet words! And many thanks to Amanda B. - for the privilege of sharing our tutorials with you and your Unit Studies families.

    1. We are also thankful for the talents He has given Nana and so happy to be able to share your book with our readers! These tutorials will surely bless a lot of families!

  4. Ah, Tricia - you and your mom are blessing so many people with this wonderful book! It's getting a workout here at our house, and oh the gift that you've given families with this - unbelievable fun, beautiful art, and great memories. Thanks for being our guest and sharing your heart!
    Amanda B.


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