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.



Do You Doodle?

I have always wanted to be able to draw, to create beautiful and funny and quirky images with a quick flick of the pen.  Alas, hand-eye co-ordination is not one of my gifts, and I have to make do with plodding copying from others’ work.  I adore a series of books by Christopher Hart that teaches drawing based on a shape: Draw a Circle/Triangle/Square, Draw Anything.

And as if I didn’t already love Mo Willems enough, he earned a very special place in my heart when he said, in an interview with Leonard Marcus in Show Me A Story!, that when he creates his drawings, “It’s important to me that a five-year-old be able to reasonably draw the characters in my stories.  The books themselves should be merely a point of entry for their own creations, based on copying my characters.”  (The Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App lets you do that with your finger on the i-phone!)

Because I also want to enable my kids’ ability to express their creativity on paper, I have become addicted to doodle books: the kind of book that gives you a framework and lets you fill in the blanks.  We’ve had fun with Once Upon a Doodle, which has scenes from dozens of fairy tales, fables and children’s stories.  What I like about the format of that book is that it encourages the artist to change bits of the story: the fairy godmother gets her spell wrong, screws up the pumpkin to a carriage transformation, and the artist has to draw the result.  Of course, as with many tellings of fairy tales, there are gender stereotypes, but there’s room to change those, too.   Running Press has a whole series of doodle books, from large to pocket-sized, and from general doodles to themed collections for Halloween and Christmas.    

And, because I’m nothing if not addicted to these things, we’ve also got My Beastly Book of Monsters on the go.  I love monster illustrations, and this one has hundreds.

So, for those of us without a natural talent for illustration, these books work as wonderful starts to creativity.  They give just enough instruction to get an idea off the ground and to let imagination soar.