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Drawing With Children

For the past couple of months, Connor and I have been working, on and off, on improving our artistic skills. Well, I'm trying to improve; Connor is already pretty good. :D I found a book called "Drawing With Children," and we are working through it together. So far, so good, although I'm not sure either one of us is going to make major strides with this system. Still, we're having fun with it.

Behind the cut, I've posted some of our artwork, along with an explanation about the exercise, where applicable. (You can click through all these photos to see a larger image at Flickr).

I'll start out with posting a couple of drawings we did before starting this method. Maybe at the end, I'll be able to tell whether or not I think we've "improved." These first two drawings were done on the day Connor and I went to the local nature center several weeks ago.

Connor's bullfrog, in pencil; drawn from life while at the park:

Connor bullfrog

My bullfrog, in pencil; drawn from life while at the park (btw, we weren't drawing the same individual frog; there were LOADS of them at the pond that day):

Bullfrog 1

My second bullfrog is one I did later, at home. I copied my original drawing, enlarging it a bit, and then I played around with watercolor pencils (I don't feel I've gotten the hang of working with them at all):

Bullfrog 2

Here is one of Connor's "before" drawings, some Fly Agaric mushrooms, drawn using Lee J. Ames Draw 50 method:


The rest of these have been done since starting our work with the book. Since the book is aimed at working with children of varying ages and abilities, one of the first things she suggests doing is assessing the level of the student - basically what sort of hand-eye ability they have for detail. (Then, throughout the book, the exercises are given at these different levels, increasing in complexity depending on the child's ability). There were three levels of this exercise, which required copying as closely as possible the printed drawings. I've only included our Level 3 (most complex) drawings; as you can see, there was no question that Connor was ready for the highest level of complexity:

My Level 3 Exercise:

Level 3 Wendy

Connor's Level 3 Exercise:

Level 3 Connor

One thing I find challenging (although I don't think Connor finds it so) is that the author recommends that you go through this program using markers, rather than pencil. She feels it builds confidence to NOT have the option of erasing and doing over something that wasn't quite the way you wanted it. This is tricky for me; I'm a perfectionist, and letting go of that bit of control was difficult. Connor is used to drawing with anything he has at hand, so he draws in permanent media frequently. I don't think this bothers him at all. Since she suggested markers, I decided that we'd go and get some decent ones; I got a set of Prismacolor art markers, which are great because they have a fine point at one end, and a large chisel point at the other. They're not cheap, but wow, they are pretty cool to use.

After the assessment exercise, she had us just play around with the markers, to get a feel for using them, the lines that can be drawn with fine and thick points, and how the colors blend. I liked this, and Connor and I each did a couple of sheets of, basically, just doodling. (He has a harder time than I do with "just" doodling, though; he invariably likes to include something identifiable in his artwork). Here's one of mine, for the heck of it. Nothing amazing, but I do like the way the markers work, and the colors are pretty. Hee - apparently, I prefer fine tips, as this one uses only fine tip. I did play around with the wide tips, too, elsewhere:

Exercise 1

Next, she explains the "Five Elements of Shape," and we spent some time getting to know them: circles, dots (filled circles), straight lines, angled lines, and curved lines. (Circles, btw, don't have to be perfect circles; this category includes any rounded shapes, like ovals and pear-shapes, etc.). She says that everything in the world is made up of some combination of these five elements, and you just have to be able to see them to draw them. She then put us to work practicing them; we wandered around the house for a while, identifying the various elements in our apartment - straight lines in the linoleum on the floor, the angled lines where the walls meet the ceiling, the curved lines of the chair arm, etc. Then, we started to draw them, first in an abstract design. This one is kind of cool in that we both followed the same instructions, but came up with very different pieces of art.

The instructions (in an abbreviated version): 1) Make three straight lines anywhere on the paper, starting each line on an edge of the paper and running it off another edge. 2) Make three dots anywhere on the paper. 3) Put a marker on one of your dots and make a curved line, or series of curved lines, in any direction, going off one end of the paper. 4) Make one circle anywhere you want in your drawing, so long as it touches another mark somewhere. 5) Color the design anyway you want.

Here is my version:

Wendy abstract

And Connor's (he "interpreted" the instructions a bit differently than I did):

Connor abstract

Well, the next exercise is where Connor and I diverged in our approach. We were supposed to be using the five elements, but this time to draw something recognizable. I decided to do the exercise as described; Connor decided he didn't want to do it that way, and just drew something out of his head. You be the judge as to which of our drawings has more "artistic merit."

The exercise: to draw a bird following step-by-step instructions (i.e. start with a dot for the eye; draw a circle around the dot; draw an angled line to form the base of the beak; etc.). Here's my drawing, which looks passably like the one shown in the book as an example:

Bird Exercise

And here is Connor's drawing, after he decided that the exercise bird looked "stupid:"


(Gee whiz, it's annoying when your eight-year-old's drawing totally kicks your own drawing's ASS). :D :D :D

Well, at this point I was starting to lose a bit of faith in the author's system. I mean, look at those two birds. Clearly, Connor is doing something right. However, we're going to persevere, at least for a while longer. The next exercise appealed to me a bit more, and seemed worth a try. The author recommends that we find some graphics that we like, and draw from them, mostly to get comfortable with seeing and reproducing those five elements of design. I can see that it could be easier to do this from a piece of artwork, rather than from life. So, I gave it a try (Connor hasn't done this part yet).

My first attempt (with which I'm not particularly happy): I copied a page from my Dragon artwork calendar. It turned out . . . um . . . okay, but just barely - and I got discouraged with it about half-way through, so it's not finished. (You can see the calendar page in the bottom right corner):

Dragon & Castle

Next, I decided to try to draw from a photograph, just for the heck of it (she hasn't recommended that yet in the text). I used a photograph I took in Australia as my model, and I'm a lot happier with this drawing, but still, it's not anything particularly wonderful. I'm still getting used to working with the markers, so maybe I just need to keep in mind that the effect that can be produced with the markers is different than what I could achieve with pencils or paints. I tend to want to have everything look EXACTLY the way it looks in life, and that's not always possible (nor desirable). So, as an early attempt I'm pleased with this, but I can see that I still have a ways to go before I'll be really satisfied with my results:

First, the original photo:

My rendition, in prismacolor marker:


So, that's what we've done so far. One thing that occurred to me this afternoon is that perhaps part of my problem is with inspiration. I have the desire to draw, but there isn't any specific project or idea that I have in mind that I want to create. Maybe it would help to have some sort of a goal.

So . . . I thought I'd ask for some inspiration from all of you! I'd love for you to give me a drawing prompt in the comments, or suggest a subject. Be as specific or as vague as you like, and I'll see what I can do with your suggestions - and I'll post the resulting artwork here. Assuming any of it is worth posting. :D Sound like fun?

In any case, I am really enjoying this; it feels good to be doing something creative, even if I'm not always excited about the results. Plus, it's something fun for Connor and I to do together, which is always a good thing.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 29th, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)
Ooh! Good idea.

Any past sparks that you'd particularly recommend?
Aug. 29th, 2007 06:54 am (UTC)
Hmm prompts...

1. Draw something you loved as a child
2. Draw something you love as an adult
3. Pick up a book, open it to a random page, draw the scene!
4. Look at Connor and draw his expression.

Okay, I'm done. :D
Aug. 29th, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC)
Draw something you loved as a child.

Make up a 'logo' for your name - or if not that then your LJ name, or similar.

I'm doing the 'abstract' prompt thing - with more curves and lines in my journal right now :) I should take a picture.
Aug. 29th, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I think you like the fine points because it gives you more control to go with your perfectionist tendencies...

I don't think that Connor's drawings are better than your's, I think you have distinct drawing styles. He's a creative freethinker and I think you're more a straight lines/real life kind of person. Picasso vs Vermeer. :) Oh and that photo of the bird in Australia is GORGEOUS!

Prompt: Go out to a local park or nearby natural area and draw the habitat of your new/temp hometown. :)
Aug. 29th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
modern still-life: computer desk

25 world's weirdest animals: http://divaboo.info/

children's story-books (not necessarily picture books) or fairy tales


Go to a travel website (like Lonelyplanet), look up a random place, and draw the pictures they post about local color.
Aug. 29th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
I had an absolutely brilliant art teacher in junior high, and you guys might get a kick out of an exercise she made us do every day in class...
She'd put an object or a piece of art up at the front of the room - anything from stacked foam shapes to a famous painting like Starry Night. We'd each be given a small piece of rough scrap paper - about 6x9" - and, for 10 minutes, we'd have to draw the painting or object w/out looking down at our page, and with as much unbroken line as possible. I don't think we were allowed to look down at all, but I might be remembering that incorrectly. Anyhoo, the exercise of working with unbroken lines really broke me of my habit of short, hesitant sketchy lines, and it's amazing how well your hand-eye coordination can improve in 10 or 20 of these exercises. They're maddeningly frustrating to begin with, but the improvements come quickly. I can scan in some of my 10 minute sketches for you - give you an idea of what I'm talking about. I've still got a lot of my projects from that class lying around :)

As for a drawing challenge - give me a classic Western dragon from a famous image or piece of art, then give me one from your mind's eye. If you take issue with "classic" portrayals of dragons, let the mind's eye image reflect that.
Aug. 30th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
I think there's a similar exercise in this book - we haven't gotten there yet, but I seem to remember it from when I skimmed before we started. I could definitely use to overcome my use of hesitant lines. Actually, working with markers is helping with that. I learned pretty quicly that I couldn't be timid - if my hand stops or slows down, there will be a blotch on the paper. We will definitely try the exercise you suggest, though, too.

Ooh! I like this challenge, and it's funny you should come up with this. Before we'd started working through the book, Connor and I both started drawing some dragons. (I have a book called "Dragonart" which give ideas about drawing your own dragons). I wasn't too thrilled with mine. When I've done the challenge as you suggest here, I'll post that original one, too, for contrast. :D

Also . . . I'm already starting to think about NaNoWriMo. Do you have any ideas yet what you're going to write this year? I'm really not sure, although I'll probably end up writing the sequel to my first NaNo (the one in Bakersfield). Then again, I'm starting to think about this early enough that I COULD do theresearch necessary to write the historical thing I've got in mind. In any case, I'm getting pretty excited about it. :)
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