Editor’s Note: Confession: I let my kids play video games, almost every day. I know this isn’t a praiseworthy parenting style, but before you throw a shoe at me, allow me to explain. Prior to heading downstairs to get comfy with their controllers, my two sons first have to complete a series of tasks that include everyday chores, weeding and harvesting the garden, playing a musical instrument, reading, and otherwise being creative. For example, the kitchen table has been taken over for the past month with Nori paste, drawing materials and our well-used art mat, and I’m not complaining.
What I’ve learned is that my boys love to be artistic (despite their repetitive “Mom, can I play video games yet?” plea). But they do it on their own terms, and I’m good with that. If my 12-year-old wants to play the Jurassic Park and Harry Potter theme songs on the piano for an hour-long loop, that’s cool with me. He doesn’t have to drill Bach all the time. And if my 10-year-old wants to make a Gravity Falls journal with repurposed books and manila folders, hey, I’m here to help. I just won’t tell him that he’s actually learning really cool mixed-media bookbinding skills.
My friend Lee Hammond knows how to bring the arts to children in a way that makes it accessible for them, no matter what subject they want to learn how to draw. Today’s newsletter is meant to inspire you to share your talent and passion for art with a young person in your life. After all, summer won’t last forever. ~Cherie
Creative Kids and Drawing by Lee Hammond
Over the course of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching art to all ages. As an art instructor, I’ve had to adjust my approach according to the age group.
When I was in college, I studied childhood art development. I learned some fascinating things about teaching kids, who process things very differently than adults. Teaching art to youngsters requires a different approach than teaching art to adults.
For example, it’s very important to not overwhelm kids with theories they aren’t ready for. We develop certain skills at certain ages, and what a 15-year-old can easily learn, a 7-year-old cannot grasp at all. As an instructor, you must know what level your student is currently in.
It’s important to know how the creative mind develops. How we draw and express ourselves as children is innate. It doesn’t matter where a child is raised either. Give a 6-year-old a box of crayons in America, and he’ll represent his world in a very similar fashion as a 6-year-old child given crayons clear across the planet. Their shapes are simple, and they’ll represent people and animals in a very similar style. It isn’t environment. The human brain and how it develops is what dictates the way we draw when we’re young.
I learned something very important when teaching kids: Drawing accurate shapes is a huge challenge for young children. This is what can frustrate a child the most, and perhaps be the very thing that prevents them from wanting to pursue art later in life.
Quite simply, a child’s hand and eye coordination isn’t fully developed until the teenage years, so drawing accurate shapes can seem overwhelming. Therefore, art should be less restrictive and more creative for youngsters.
But what do you do when they want more? When I taught kids, many wanted to draw realistically like me. So, how do you guide them without frustrating them at the same time? I learned how to modify my approach.
A few years ago, I wrote a book titled Amazing Crayon Drawing. It took crayon drawing to a new level, showing crayons used for a realistic approach. When teaching kids, I love using crayons. The children were already familiar with them, so I simply showed them how to control them more. Instead of just filling things in with fast scribbling, I demonstrated how to go slowly, lighten their touch and work in smooth layers instead.
I also taught “light side / dark side.” Any age group can grasp the concept of shadows. I like to start by having them draw a simple apple shape (which doesn’t have to be accurate) and then show them how to create a light side and a dark side on it. We start by filling in with light colors, like orange, as smoothly as possible. Then we add darker red tones on top of it, creating the light side and dark side. It’s amazing to see the look on a kid’s face when he layers colors on top of each other this way with success.
The fun really begins, though, when I show children how to put a shadow underneath and on one side to make the apple look realistic. Once they learn the concept of shadows, they’re eager to do more things. They start to put shadows under everything!
After they learn with crayons, I then branch out, slowly introducing them to other mediums. It’s fun to demonstrate how to use watercolor as a base, and then place crayon or colored pencils over it for more detail. It eases children into more complex mediums slowly, without frustration.
Learning shadow and color technique is easy for kids, but the real dilemma is drawing shapes. To help them learn to draw better shapes, I use two methods: the grid method and the projector method.
The grid method helps kids break shapes into manageable pieces. I created the puzzle piece method by taking simple black-and-white drawings and making puzzles out of them. Any child can draw simple shapes inside little boxes. When they see how all the boxes come together to draw something realistic, they become inspired. I have included these in quite a few of my books.
You can encourage your little ones by creating these puzzles yourself. Even if you can’t draw, you can make the puzzles out of coloring books. Simply draw 1-inch squares on top of the coloring book page. Turn the picture upside down, and then number each square. Cut the pieces apart, rearrange them randomly and glue them on another piece of paper.
Create an empty grid on a white sheet of paper, with the same number of boxes, and number them. Have the child draw what she sees in each box in the appropriate number. You’ll be amazed how much fun she’ll have. In the process, she’ll become more accurate in drawing shapes. When she’s are done, turn the grid right-side up and reveal the drawing to her. It’s so much fun!
I also taught the use of a projector. While this is a form of tracing and may seem like “cheating,” it’s not. Projecting an image onto a student’s drawing paper helps train his hand and eye coordination while he draws. It helps him create a more accurate line drawing. He’ll feel better about his drawings when the shapes look good. By not obsessing on his ability to freehand shapes correctly, he can then concentrate on the blending techniques, which are much easier to grasp at a young age. As he gets older, his drawing skills will catch up to his rendering skills.
Each child has a personal style waiting to be developed. If realistic drawing and painting isn’t what they want, then have them experiment with color and abstract art instead, to remove the right or wrong associated with realism. The more options you provide children, the better.
There’s a whole world of artistic techniques that can be taught to kids. This blog could easily be turned into a full-sized book with all of the ideas I have. (Hmmm…)
I hope that this helps give you some ideas for encouraging your little ones!
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!
• Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond