by Grace Sloop
You don’t need a fine arts degree when it comes to teaching children to draw. Many people see drawing as a special gift that not everyone has. While most people are not going to become the next Michelangelo or Rembrandt, anyone can learn how to draw. Drawing is a bit like math. There are only a few Einsteins out there, but most people can balance their checkbook.
The first step is deciding what to draw. This is not as easy as it sounds. Your children might want to start by drawing the grand finale of the circus, but they would soon be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this task.
Simplify the picture by focusing on a single component like the face of a clown. Then break down the clown’s face into simple shapes. The human face is basically an oval. The eyes, ears and mouth are sideways ovals as well. The nose is a triangle–or in the case of a clown, maybe a big red circle.
Which reminds me, the lion’s share of art is keen observation in the first place. Almost any object can be broken down into simple shapes, which will eventually give your child the confidence to move onto something more difficult, like a horse or a tiger.
To make the learning faster and more fun, go to the city park or take a stroll around the neighborhood with your child. Ask him or her questions like: “What does a tree look like?” “Does it look like a rectangle with a circle on top?” “What about that pigeon over there?” ”What shapes make up a bird?” “Is its beak a triangle?”
In art school, students spend many hours drawing what is affectionately (or perhaps not!) called the “mandatory still life.” The point of this somewhat dull exercise of drawing several hundred glasses of water, bricks of cheese or bowls of flowers is to enhance the student’s skill at both recognizing and drawing shapes, lines and curves.
But the average five-year-old would much rather draw a lion or an elephant than a boring old glass of water. That’s okay. Art students probably don’t get much of a thrill out of it either. The point is to practice, practice, practice, and then next week, your budding artist might want to practice some more.
The same goes for anything. You wouldn’t expect your child to know that two plus two equals four after only one attempt, would you? Drawing is no different.
“But I still can’t draw!” you scream. I admit that I’m not much of an artist either. I started out with the simplest cartoon character of all: SpongeBob Squarepants. My daughter really likes SpongeBob. I drew a lot of SpongeBobs in the most temporary of all mediums–sidewalk chalk.
Then I moved on to Patrick, Mr. Krab, Pearl and eventually Squidworth. I drew SpongeBob in sidewalk chalk, crayon, tempera paint and eventually, I painted SpongeBob and Patrick on her wall. Then, I moved up to Dora. Eventually, I moved up to my all time favorite cartoon character–Scooby Doo. Scooby Doo is not exactly masterpiece-level art, but hey, when I started out I couldn’t draw SpongeBob.
It’s good to keep things in perspective like that, which also means remembering to make art fun. And one of the most fun things about teaching your children to draw is that you get to learn as well!