Using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes
Making the Abstract Practical
Here is the record of our homeschool journey into drawing, using Mona Brookes' Drawing with Children as our main resource.
My daughter Sprite was nine years old when we began these studies. She is a motivated artist who wants to hone her skills. I usually do the activities right alongside her.
My daughter now is 13 years old and still loves art. I credit her skill to an early start with Ms. Brookes' principles.
Drawing with Children
This book is more of an art education philosophy than an open and go curriculum. Although it offers a lot of great ideas and how-tos, you'll have to use some planning to make it work in your homeschool.
Drawing with Children
Elements of Drawing
Ms. Brookes explains that anything we can see or draw is made up of these components:
- Straight Lines
- Curved Lines
- Angle Lines
So she begins her drawing instruction with learning to recognize and draw these elements. Nadene over at Practical Pages has a free printable for learning these basics. If we can learn to see things broken down in the individual elements, we can more easily draw them.
In Drawing with Children, each lesson begins with a warm up exercise using the elements. There are different types of warm-ups, so there's no need to get bored with one type.
One type of exercise is making up your own abstract piece of art with bold colored markers.
One person gives general directions which the others can interpret as they choose. For example, you may say:
- Draw four blue circles anywhere on your paper.
- Using a new color, make three intersecting lines that go all the way off the edges.
- Overlap your dots with black curves.
- Using any three colors you choose, draw sixteen curves inside a huge circle.
Another warm-up involves duplicating abstract patterns.
Looking at abstract patterns made of these elements and copying them later transfers into breaking down any image into the elements it is made up of and then drawing what you see.
Ms. Brookes says that you should "spontaneously use some kind of similar warm-up before each drawing lesson." The book offers some examples which you can copy. But you'll certainly have to make some of your own. Visit Donna Young for many free printable warm up exercises (such as the image here) that will keep you busy for some time.
A third kind of warm-up is the mirror image one.
"Drawing is a teachable subject
and artistic talent can be developed."
-- Mona Brookes
In my reading about using Drawing with Children, I've found that many people consider the book non user-friendly. What are you experiences with this book?
What is has been your experience with the book Drawing with Children?
When to Start With This Book
Ms. Brookes has recommendations for children as young as 4, but I think that this book would be best for children at least 7 years old. There is no upper limit. These methods could also be used for adults just learning to draw. And I strongly encourage you to do the activities alongside your child.
Beginning to Draw
lessons 1 & 2
From the directions on pages 75-79, we drew birds. Here is Sprite's finished drawing, based on the step by step directions.
Because she wasn't totally satisfied with her results, she made another bird, relying more on her own imagination rather than the steps from the book.
And lastly, she went down her own path, creating a totally different style of bird.
Using the directions on pages 106-112, Sprite drew this all by herself. She simply followed along with the step by step pictures in the margin. I doubt that she read any of the text as she worked on it.
Mona Brookes recommends having a picture file for inspiration and for subjects to sketch. Despite the feeling that copying from another source is "cheating," Mona reassures us that even professional artist use various photographs and the works of other artists as references. It's not cheating at all. We must first see what we are to draw.
This is a pencil sketch of a rhino that Sprite saw in a science book.
So begin collecting photographs, magazine ads, greeting cards, and calendars. We have found that our postcard collection works very well! Sprite is, like any 9 year old girl, a lover of all animals. So she enjoys browsing through the postcards to find an interesting animal to sketch.
This giraffe drawing is actually from a postcard:
"Be patient with what unfolds, don't put any emphasis on comparison of levels, and keep encouraging yourself and your children to simply enjoy the learning process you are experiencing together."
Drawing from Still Life
We didn't really care for the still life selection offered in the book. I also felt that to copy something from a book was drawing from a graphic and not actually a still life. So I allowed Sprite to select some things to sketch. She chose a red bike helmet and some various toys.
This is her sketch:
Anything can serve as the subject of a still life. Here is a plush backpack that Sprite chose and her sketch of it.
Sketching can happen anywhere you go as long as you prepare ahead and take some paper and pencils. Recently my daughter sketched some dinosaur fossils at a museum.
Artist's Manikin - a poseable wooden form
I happened upon a great find at an Ikea store! Poseable, wooden artist's manikins for just a few dollars each! I bought two for Sprite to sketch. The idea is that you study the proportions and angles of the limbs and sketch more realistic human figures. You can even work on top of the model sketch to add in facial details and clothes. Here are a few of Sprite's sketches from her manikin.
Other Drawing Resources
Resources Online - for implementing Drawing with Children
- Masterpieces Yahoo Group
This yahoo group is devoted to art -- drawing and appreciation of fine art. The files have a wealth of resources for using Drawing with Children.
- Paula's Archives
A no-frills, no-nonsense website jam packed with ideas. Here are Paula's art ideas. She also hosts a plan for using Drawing with Children.
- Donna Young
Here you'll find another very straightforward website with a plethora of free printables -- lots of warm up exercises at many levels of difficulty. The image of the duplication exercise is a free printable from her site.
- Art & Learning to Think & Feel
This is Marvin Bartel's art site. You'll find plenty of food for thought on this rich site! His philosophy is similar to Mona Brookes'.
- Encouragement for Using Drawing with Children
Barb of Harmony Arts shares her thoughts on this art philosophy. Also included are some sample photos of her children's work.
- Drawing With Children-At What Age?
Barb answers the question when to start Drawing with Children. Barb also gives a series of her son's sketches through the years. It's a most helpful and practical post.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."— Picasso
My daughter is crazy about animals, especially cats, so she often chooses cats are her subjects for sketching. Here are two pieces she sketched on canvas and then filled in with oil pastels. (Done at age 11.)
These were done in her free time, without any prompting on my part. She did request some canvases, and I obliged by providing the materials she needed. Using real artist materials seemed to give her a real pride in her work and demonstrated that I value her creativity.