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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Making Art Together

Buttermilk Chalk Drawing with Susan Schwake

 Originally posted on December 23rd, 2013 by Meghan Burch

Back in October, Artist and Author Susan Schwake made a return visit to The Carle. You may remember when she led a Monster Mash Workshop in the Art Studio last October 2012 and this time, we treated guests to an activity from one of her new books, Art Lab For Little Kids.

Susan has fond memories of doing buttermilk chalk drawings with her mom when she was young. I have to admit, we don’t take our chalks out very often here because I’m just not a fan of the dust they create. Dipping the chalks in a little cup of regular buttermilk frequently while drawing with them solves that!

We have various brands of chalks and chalk pastels in the Art Studio. The ones that seemed to work best are our giant round chalk pastels (similar to the Sargent Art Colorful Sidewalk Chalks) because they are richly colored, but very soft. Susan said that in her teaching experience lesser expensive chalks have worked well. For drawing surfaces we used our favorite construction paper and white drawing paper.

I had never tried dipping chalk in buttermilk before. Now, I’m hooked! As I drew, the chalks became creamy and I felt like I was painting. I loved that I could put my picture aside, return to it later and add more layers of drawing without disturbing my previous marks underneath. When my picture was dry, it wasn’t at all dusty or smudgy. Our volunteers and work-study students had fun trying it out too.

Even though this activity comes from Art Lab For Little Kids, the multigenerational groups of guests who came to meet Susan can attest to its enjoyability for all! Many families left the Art Studio with a large stack of drawings. Next time you have some buttermilk in your fridge at home, give it a try with any chalks you might already have.

Susan will return on April 19, 2014 to host Rolled Paper Relief Sculpture, an activity from her other new book, 3-D Art Lab For Kids. Mark your calendars! Her Art Lab books are a great reference for classrooms and families, and while supplies last, signed copies can be found in The Carle Bookstore. You can learn more about Susan, her artwork, and her books at her website and blog.



We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we’re excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment: 

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials. 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials. 



by Diana MacKenzie

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 at 12:57 pm and is filed under Drawing, Elementary School, Middle School, Preschool, Special Guests and Artist Visits. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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