Benefits of observational drawing

Published by Lori Pickert on February 13, 2008 at 01:33 PM


Besides the obvious benefit of learning how to draw, what are some other benefits of observational drawing with children?

• Slowing down, taking our time

• Learning to really see

• Noticing details

• Realizing improvement comes with practice

This is why a sketchbook is essential! Keep sketches together!

• Becoming comfortable with mistakes

• Becoming confident in attempting something new


Tomorrow I'm going to talk a little bit about working with mixed age groups. We have always taught classes with children ranging in age over several years; if you are teaching siblings you are probably doing the same thing. How do you address everyone's needs and make sure no one gets bored? It's not as hard as you think.

See Art Lesson: Observational Drawing


Comment by Heather on February 13, 2008 at 05:22 PM

Yes!! I need tips, yesterday I tried this with my 3 and almost 5 yr old and no one wanted to do it. They just wanted to draw their own thing which was fine with me. However I would love for them to try observational drawing out.

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 13, 2008 at 07:10 PM

i have tips, tips of many kinds.

talk about how sometimes we draw whatever we want (free draw) and use our imaginations, but this is a special kind of drawing where we are going to draw something in particular, together.

rather than grab any old thing, choose something compelling for them to draw that you know will interest them and hold their attention. and remember - your goal at first should be ten minutes or so of drawing, not an hour!

in class, we do observational drawing first, and we do free drawing at the end of class. always make sure they have time to free draw, and they will enjoy free drawing with you as much as they enjoy doing observational drawing with you.

make a big deal of giving them a special sketchbook to do observational drawing in - even if you just staple together a stack of copy paper with a cover. make yourself one! then make a routine of getting out your sketchbooks, revealing the thing you're going to draw (and after a few sessions, they can make suggestions), talking before drawing (discussing details), then draw together and continue discussing details as you draw.

after you finish (short times to start, longer as they become experts), pull out the loose paper and free draw - you can get out colored pencils or markers at this time, too.

remember that small children can be so mesmerized by any new materials you bring out that they can't concentrate on the task at hand. if that's the case, give them time to draw whatever they want at the front, then start the activity.

no matter what, make sure that this is a pleasant experience! if they enjoy it, they will definitely want to do it again! play soft music if you like, give them a lot of your undivided attention, sit down together at a clean table, have something interesting to look at and draw (a seashell, something from the yard, a toy, something from the kitchen, something from your desk...), and always give lots of encouraging positive feedback: "i like the way you are drawing so carefully." "you have really put a lot of detail into your drawing!" "wow, i didn't even notice those little lines." and etc. if you make this a really enjoyable experience for all of you, you will all want to do it again!

Comment by Molly Irwin on February 14, 2008 at 01:52 AM

Lori: Once again I'm so inspired by your subject. I remember vividly (and still have several sketches) of my observational drawings from high school and college art courses. But I hadn't thought of setting up a specific activity focusing on this for my youngsters. I don't know why.

I'm incorporating this into our summer at-home learning program for a quiet activity while the little guy sleeps.

Comment by Laura Swanson on February 14, 2008 at 02:43 AM

I am really enjoying your tips on drawing. My own children love to draw - particularly my 10 year old son. I am subbing this week in our mixed age (2yrs -5yrs) preschool classroom on Friday & am planning on doing some drawing with them!!!


Comment by Lori Pickert on February 14, 2008 at 03:49 AM

thank you, molly - i look forward to seeing what you guys get up to this summer!

laura - that's great - let me know how it goes! :^)

Comment by sj on February 14, 2008 at 06:06 AM

wow. you really are good.
nicely put lori.
i will try to take and post a photo of our 'pencil' drawing from the other day.

if i don't, know you can add one more family to, i am sure, the long list of those you have inspired.

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 14, 2008 at 03:31 PM

sj, thank you. that means a lot. :^)

and yes, take a picture! e-mail it to me - i want to see it!

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