Drawing for children. Much more of a loaded topic then you would believe.
Believe or not but, both of these drawings were completed by children within a year or two of each other in age. The difference: The instruction that the children received.
Drawing for kids can be very controversial in certain circles. If you are not an educator than you may not even know that not everyone believes you should actually teach children to draw.
I graduated from a very progressive school of education that follows the educational theories of Viktor Lowenfeld author of Creative and Mental Growth. He strongly believes that children go through certain stages of development in art and should be allowed to progress through them without adult intervention.He strongly believes that children should only be involved in symbolic drawing which is what the first drawing is all about.
Since this was my training I thought this was the holy grail, until I started reading some other books about drawing with kids that totally changed my way of thinking.
The first one is the very well known, cutting edge The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. In Betty Edwards method she teaches people to see things from the right side of brain, teaching them to shut down the left while drawing.
Her method has been extremely successful with adults so its not that applicable to young children. She actually believes that children can’t really be taught drawing well until about age 10. So her methods do fit in pretty well with Lowenfelds. Basically let the kids draw as they please until age 10 and then teach them HOW to draw.
The second book I read is Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks, who teaches The Monart Method. In her book Mona claims that she can teach children as young as 3 or 4 to draw realistically.
She feels that the same way children need instruction to learn how to read properly, they will also not learn to draw without instruction. She does address the issue of children being allowed to draw without instruction and claims that children need both types of drawing. She does not deny that there is a place for what Lowenfeld calls symbolic drawing. The image of the bird on the above right was of a young child that was in a class that I gave using Mona Brooks techniques.
Here are some other images children in that class were able to make after only a few lessons.
Mona Brooks bases her method on children learning to see the world through 5 basic elements of shape.
What is very interesting to me in her book is how she debunks many myths many of us have had for so long about drawing. Below are 8 of those myths that have been so widely accepted.
8 myths about drawing with children
- The ability to draw is only inherited: Even though there are definitely those that are born with artistic skills that help them be natural drawers, there are many drawing skills that can be learned.
- There is a definite right and wrong way to draw: Just take a look at Picasso, Rembrandt and Grandma Moses if you think that.
- Drawing is for pleasure…it teaches the kids nothing: This is probably one of the reasons so many schools have cut the arts so drastically. It is vital to show administrators how art provides thinking and problem solving skills that can be so helpful for other areas of learning.
- Art should be given to those that are talented artistically and may plan to use art for their career: Art is vital for all kids to gain the many benefits and skills it provides.
- Children should only learn drawing techniques through trial and error: If you can’t learn how to play the piano that way, then why should it be that way with art. If we teach children the general concepts of shape and leave the detail to them they will have guidance that will last a lifetime.
- Abstracts artists are not real artists: Many of the most successful artists were men like Picasso and Matisse who were in fact highly proficient realists. Abstract art is just a different type of art.
- Real artists draw from only imagination: I always believed this was the case.That artists think about what they want to draw-and “voila” they just draw. Instead I now know that artists do research before drawing and have pictures and often real life models of the object they want to draw ,before they even begin to put pen to paper. Imagination comes along with the pictures and the models/
- Real artists always love what they produce: Read a biography of Van Gogh or many other artists to see what angst they went through with their artwork. They don’t see their works as failures, but as steps in progress
So even though I believes greatly in proper child developmental theories of education and art, one can’t argue with the evidence and I realized that there is definite benefit to children getting specific instruction in drawing from these methods. There is however, place for both types of drawing and children should be allowed to draw both ways. After trying out the method with a group of early elementary age children I saw how there is certainly place for both kinds of drawing with children.
If you want to try some step by step drawing for children then check out the post that is linked to in step by step drawing as it will take you through the first few lessons that I did with children using the Mona Brooks book. I also have some drawing ideas for kids that are totally abstract projects.
P.S. The above post was written a few years ago and since then you can check out many new posts I have done on drawing for children.
You might want to check out the whole section I have on drawing activities themselves.
As you go through these these lessons, you yourself may get inspired to learn to draw along with your children or students. It is amazing how many frustrated adult artists there are out there who wish they could learn to draw. And maybe now you can.
What do you feel about this topic?