Learning to Draw

Our theme for our posts for July is, loosely, homeschooling: learning at home.  Partly, we are talking about avoiding the summer slide, but we are also looking at how learning at home and outside of the classroom is important for broadening our kids’ horizons.  And, yes, we include our trip to LEGOLAND in the learning category!  You should have seen how the boys looked at each others’ car models and sought advice and inspiration from each other to make their cars faster.

One of my goals for myself and my kids this summer is to create more art.  I am powerfully drawn to art supply stores in a way that totally defies logic because I can’t draw!  All those gorgeous colours of markers, and here’s be barely able to draw a smiley face.

I’d like to change that.

Here are three sets of books that I have found really useful.


Ed Emberley’s illustration instruction is an outstanding place to start, not only because the method is so simple and fun but because results are so instant.  Seriously, no one can mess this up.  We have several of his books, but the web site is fun and useful, too.  It has printable sheets and animated instruction.  I really like the step-by-step method, but also how he includes ways to vary the basic image.  We own a copy of his Drawing Book of Animals, originally published in 1970.  It is dedicated to “the boy I was, the book I could not find.”  That broke my heart a little.  Well, your boys and girls can find both the book and the web site and can get busy making art right away.  His fingerprint illustrations are particularly fun, and they even incorporate literacy into the method: if you can write IVY LOU, you can draw an owl.


Another series I love is based on shapes.  Chris Hart has a whole line of illustration instruction books, but the ones I go to all the time are his very basic shape-based ones: Draw a Triangle/Circle/Square, Draw Anything.

chris hart

Again, the key to the success of these books is step-by-step instruction and instant gratification.  My son’s hockey team, whose logo was a deer, made it to the finals in their division a few years back.  For luck, I decided to give them all lucky underwear (inspiration from the coach, who had a pair) and I went to this book to find a super-simple image of a deer to draw onto the underwear.  Huge hit.

Finally, I have fallen in love with a great series of books that encourage artists not only to make art but to find a style that suits them: the 20 Ways to Draw series from Quarry books.  The illustrations are a lot more advanced, but the books demonstrate various styles for illustrating the same object, from simple to more complicated.  There is no step-by-step instruction, but there is a lot of inspiration!

20 ways



A reminder that voting is open for the best mom blog of 2014, for which we are thrilled to have been nominated.

Please head over to Toronto Mom Now and check out the other nominees.  You can vote for your favourite three.  Voting closes on Monday, July 14.



7 thoughts on “Learning to Draw

  1. We also found it helpful with our kids to have them spend some time with someone who CAN draw! Artists love to share their love of the craft with others, and the kids get to see how it’s done by someone who isn’t following a pattern in a book. 🙂

    • Yes, when we’ve gone to meet illustrators at readings and workshops, the kids were more inspired to create art. I’m just trying to build this into our day more regularly. A friend hired an art school student to come to the house once a week to just sit and make art with her kids. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

  2. I voted for you this week! Love your resources for showing kids how to draw–I remember that first Ed Emberley book from my early teaching days, including that poignant dedication. So much fun to have him online now. Gentle encouragement is wonderful, especially for kids who are positive they can’t draw. I was one of those. My second grade teacher taught us a simple way to draw daffodils and log cabins, and I remember her instructions with pleasure to this day. Thanks for posting!

    • Thank you, Catherine! I also remember learning to draw a daffodil, in England, and it was one of a few sketches I was ever proud of having made. Thanks for shaking that memory loose!

  3. It’s wonderful to see families interested in keeping up the learning opportunities outside of school. I loved drawing as a kid, too, and always enjoyed those thumbprint art books!
    And we totally agree that theme parks and the like can be educational! If anyone is planning a trip to Walt Disney World, check out our blog for some great learning opportunities. (shameless plug) 😛

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