Monday, September 15, 2008

Intructions in Teaching Drawing

We have been participating in Harmony Art Mom's Sketch Tuesday for the past few weeks. This has been a really fun way to encourage the kids to do drawing practice. Harmony Art Mom displays all of the completed assignments on her blog on Tuesday and the kids love seeing their sketches online!

I co-owned a wall mural business for five years and taught art for four years. When I scheduled our school year this year I didn't schedule any time for drawing practice or choose an art curriculum, because I figured - in our house - drawing just happens. However, since I was not intentional, drawing was not happening. Sketch Tuesday has given us a reason to draw.

Like I said before, I do not use an art curriculum. So often, people have said to me, "I could never draw like that. I don't have that gift."

My answer is always the same. "Yes, you can. Drawing is a learned skill."

God is an artist and we are created in His image. Certainly some are given more natural talent than others in this area, but everyone can learn and become accomplished in the skill of drawing. I know this to be true, because I learned to draw. I am not naturally gifted as an artist.

First, you must teach your students to use references and observe them carefully. This is so hard for children, because they only want to draw from their imagination. There is a time to just let children doodle. But when they are working on drawing as a skill they need to use references, either from life or from a picture.

When my friend and I painted wall murals, we would have a reference for EVERYTHING we were, trees, people...and we would tape them to the wall where we were painting so that we could look at them as we were painting. When first starting it is easier to look at another artist's drawing or painting. You can often see the lines of the artist's pencil or brush and mimic them. It takes a while before you will be able to mimic the lines of a "real" picture or object as well.

Let your students "copy the masters" by giving them a copy of a famous piece of art and having them recreate it. DON'T LET THEM TRACE! But encourage them to look closely at the picture and draw it just as the artist drew it. They will get better with repeated practice. Praise their efforts, but don't be afraid to point out a mistake and show them how to correct a line that is a little wobbly or a shape that is not the right proportion.

Instruct them to DRAW LIGHTLY and to USE THEIR ERASERS! This will need to be repeated to little ones again, and again, and AGAIN. Students often want to just draw the picture quickly and be done. But drawing correctly always involves erasing your mistakes and making improvements so that your drawing looks more like your reference. (Just like editing a paper, the first draft is not the final product.) But if the student is not drawing lightly, he will not be able to erase completely. This makes for a very messy project. Once the student is certain he likes the drawing the way that it is, he can always go back and darken his lines.

It is always helpful if you, as the teacher, are willing to show the students how to draw SOME projects step-by-step. They will need to watch the movement of your hand, see how you draw and correct your mistakes to fully understand it themselves.

Our assignment this week for Sketch Tuesday was to draw something with a door. A6 picked a picture of a tree house from a book to draw. As you can see, I propped the book up so that both A6 and I could see it. I would point to what I was drawing in the book and then draw a line on the whiteboard. A6 would draw the same line and then we would continue.

Here is A6's finished product. (Please forgive the wrinkles - E1 got a hold of it, before I could take any pictures.)

This is G7's drawing of a castle. We did it the same way. We looked at a picture in a book and I drew it step by step on the board.

If you don't feel confident drawing step by step with your child yet, try buying a book that does this for you like Draw, Write, Now. You can also rent Bob Ross videos from the library and have your children watch him draw. You can also watch free videos online of Jan Brett, children's book illustrator, drawing step by step.

Encourage your children to draw and draw and draw some more. This is how they will see their greatest improvement. Pin It Now!


  1. Thanks for the lead to Jan Brett's site! I did not know that existed. I do step by step drawing with my kids and with my art class students as well! The results tend to be on the amazing side when this method is used. I totally agree with you about drawing being a learned skill. I wish singing was more so.
    If you're interested I have art lessons up over at my site once a week or so, but it seems like you may have it covered!

  2. I've been to Jan Brett's site but I never saw the videos - wonderful!

    Thank you for the link to Harmony Art's site as well.

    Your children have created some great drawings. I have seen great drawings from that age range before, but I always assumed it was natural talent. I never thought about actually working on it with my child, and I thought encouraging them to make corrections was a big no-no. Thank you for the great tips!

  3. This is a wonderful lesson! I agree, children CAN learn to draw. (I taught art for 3 years in an after-school program.)

    I'm here by way of the Carnival of Homeschooling. So nice to meet you.

    e-Mom @ Chrysalis :~D



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