Observational drawing with young children: tips

Published by Lori Pickert on February 15, 2008 at 10:53 PM


I am moving this up to its own post from the comments, in case it is helpful to anyone else.

Heather wrote:

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.

My response:

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." etc. If you make this a really enjoyable experience for all of you, you will all want to do it again!

Thank you, Heather, for your great question. I hope this helps out anyone else who is working with a young and/or reluctant artist!

Related stuff:

Art lesson: Observational Drawing

Benefits of observational drawing

Sharing our work: Observational drawings

Observational drawing: Musical instruments

Observational drawing: Where do we go from here

Art lesson: Blind-contour drawing


Comment by Dawn Suzette on February 23, 2010 at 02:47 AM

I just e-mailed you about my perfectionsist and stuck drawing issues... now I have read a few posts and linked to this point and have some ideas to try this week. I know I have read these things before but there is just nothing like a refresher course for Mama! :)
Thanks Lori!

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 27, 2010 at 05:45 PM

i hope my e-mail helped too! :^)

Post new comment