Improving Your Child’s Drawing Skills

When I taught Art in public school I spent the first six weeks of class time teaching drawing skills.  We practiced our drawing skills almost every day.  Since I love to draw, this first six weeks was always a pleasure for me.  That wasn’t the case for many of my students. Many students came to art with a fear of drawing. Who knows where that fear came from.

There could be numerous reasons a child would be afraid to draw. Someone might have made a critical comment about their work or made fun of them. Possibly the child was just extremely hard on themselves expecting perfection in their own drawings. Some students along the way had determined that they had no talent for art or drawing.

Well, I am here to say that children can learn how to draw. They can learn to improve their drawing skills.  You do not have to be born with an innate ability to be able to draw. Putting pencil or pen to paper isn’t as important as learning how to see, to really see.

If you teach a child to look closely at objects, then the child’s drawing skills will improve. A book I really enjoyed reading and feel is useful in teaching this skill is The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.  When a child learns to switch from left brain thinking to right brain thinking, they will actually perceive better.  When they perceive better, they will draw better.

Here are some activities I enjoyed doing with my classes to improve their drawing skills:

1. Pure Contour drawings of their hands.  Students had to draw without looking at their paper.  They were not allowed to pick their pencil off the paper or to talk during the exercise.

2. Contour drawings of hands holding an object.  Students were allowed to look at their paper, but had to keep the pencil on the page the whole time. They also were not allowed to speak.

3. Contour drawings of the classroom with the furniture and students in the drawing.  Students set up their desks on one side of the room. They started drawing from left to right. Students drew with one oil pastel, so no one could erase.  These drawings always seemed to turn out great.

4. Gesture drawings.  Students took turns posing for three one minute action poses. Most students were very happy to be asked to be models, but I did have a few shy ones. I did these drawings along with the class. It seemed to encourage the students to see me drawing with them.

5. Upside down drawings from magazine or photographs.  I collected magazines from the school library. Each child was given a magazine.  The students chose a picture to sketch. The magazine was turned upside down and kept that way as they sketched. This process speeds up the switch from left brain to right brain. Reminding the students to look at shapes and not to name the objects they were drawing helps also.

6. Grid drawings.  Taught the students how to divide a photograph into sections and enlarge using a grid.

7. Outdoor sketches.  I rewarded my students occasionally with a class day of sketching outside when the weather was nice.  We had different locations where we sketched. Sometimes we would sit on the front porch of the school, other times we sat on a grassy area near the classroom or on the bleachers at the baseball field.  Students were allowed to sketch whatever they wanted.

8. Drawing from music. I played a classical recorded piece of music for the class to listen to.  The students listened without drawing. The next time the students listened as they drew. They used large sheets of paper and pencil to make marks on the paper that showed the feelings they got from the rhythm.These drawing were a fun release from realistic drawing. They ended up with interesting designs that the students later painted or colored with oil pastels.

Drawing can be fun for all children.  I hope this article has given you some ideas to help improve your child’s drawing skills.

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