Have you struggled with helping to teach your children to draw? Perhaps because you don’t feel confident in your own abilities or because some time in the past you became frustrated with making drawings that didn’t look “right”. I invite you to read a bit of encouragement from Charlotte Mason and then a few of my own insights from my experiences tackling the job of teaching beginning artists.
“Appreciation for beauty usually comes after recognition. Notice how, from the time he’s little, this young child tries to capture a flower’s beautiful color and graceful form with his own paintbrush. A wise mother is careful to make her child aware and appreciative of stylized art. She has him look at a wild cherry tree from a distance, or a willow tree with its soft pussy willows. Then she shows him how the picture on a Japanese screen has captured the very look of the thing without being an exact representation. When he compares a single pussy willow or cherry blossom with the ones in the picture, he can see that the pictures aren’t attempts at exact duplication. From an early age, he learns the difference between painting what we actually see, and painting what we know is there even if we don’t see it. He learns that it’s more satisfying to try to paint what is actually seen.”
Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, Chapter 7
My son drew this when he was about 5 years old. Yes, it is supposed to be me.
An example of this is when your children try to draw things like the human face or human hands. These are things that they have seen hundreds of times and yet they often draw hands with five fingers all sticking out and eyes as big as saucers. They understand that the hand has five fingers on it and they draw it that way. But, that is not what we usually see when we look at someone’s hands. We see parts of hands, parts of fingers, and hardly ever the palm facing out.
This is where we see the struggle of the child trying to draw what he thinks a hand should look like as opposed to what he really sees. The same thing happens when children draw ears and noses and mouths. They end up drawing the symbol for what they think are these facial features instead of what they really appear to be on the human face.
Here’s another example that illustrates this phenomenon. Notice that my son drew the apple seeds that he knows are on the inside of the apple even though we are looking at the outside of the apple. His brain is telling him that there are seeds inside even though clearly his eyes don’t see them. I find this truly fascinating.
Viewing Art – How do other artists solve these problems?
I learned from Charlotte Mason’s writings the value of viewing paintings as a way to learn how to represent objects realistically in our own artistic pursuits. To see from a variety of artists the solution to making hands in a painting look “right” is just a matter of taking time to study each painting one by one over a period of time. This is called “picture study”. We can see how other artists have solved the problems before us and learn from their examples.
From My Archives
Just What is Picture Study? – Here are a few beginning steps to viewing famous artwork with your child. As your child gains some experience with really looking at great art, they will start to see how various artists make things look life-like. This takes some time so just get the process started and little by little your children will come to appreciate each painting and remember it like a friend.
Great Reproductions- Another Helpful Lesson in Copywork – Here’s an entry that gives you loads of instruction on how to use picture study and then art copywork as a stepping stone to learning to draw more realistically. This entry is aimed at high school students but you could easily use the resources and adapt the ideas with younger children.
Drawing With Children – Helping Moms to Learn to Guide Little Artists
A valuable resource for helping your family to learn to draw is the book, Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes. I recently shared some thoughts about this book here on my blog. I invite you to read her words and be encouraged to use her methods with your family.
Here is the entry: Drawing With Children – Free Lesson Plans
“We need to stop mystifying the drawing process and explain to students how artists actually achieve the results they do. For instance, Picasso and Michelangelo both copied other artists’ work for at least two years as part of their initial art training. When Picasso began to express himself in what were considered “unique” styles he was actually copying many of his images from African masks. Painters such as Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec worked from photographs of their subjects, and many famous painters have used each other’s paintings for inspiration.”
Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, page 11 in the section, Changing Your Attitudes and Abilities
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