Sketching together

Published by Lori Pickert on April 8, 2009 at 03:40 PM

We’ve been going out twice a week to sketch together, driving the winding country roads till we see something we want to draw. I like the idea that when we’re done, it will be a book filled with things we see all the time, places we identify with home.


Comment by Mary on April 8, 2009 at 07:45 PM

What a great idea!

Comment by Arwen on April 8, 2009 at 08:50 PM

I can't wait to sketch with my son. I bought a drawing pad for him last week. I am waiting until the right moment to show it to him and start practicing observational drawing with him. Hopefully we can do it on a regular basis and keep it fun.

Comment by Jill on April 8, 2009 at 09:00 PM

Wow!! Which of you did this drawing?? I know I've already told you that a couple of us are perfectionists here. I'm wondering how we can get past this, and just get drawing. We've done observational drawing and I try to encourage other kinds of artwork as much as I can, but we (I include myself here so I'm sure I'm the one that needs to be preached at) can't seem to get over being so self-critical. And when we don't like our work, there it ends. For a long time. I'm so sad, because I feel like I've set the scene for an art-less family. Is this sickness reversible?? Maybe you've addressed this already and you could just point me to where you have. Thanks, Lori!

Comment by laeroport on April 8, 2009 at 09:02 PM

I so love this. So, so love this.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 8, 2009 at 09:19 PM

thank you, ladies! :^)

arwen, can’t wait to hear how it goes!

jill, that’s me on the left :^P and jack (9yo) on the right — his is a little harder to see in this picture, as he sketches in pencil. my 12yo says he is going to join us sometimes, too. :^)

i am just starting to draw myself — argh — and wow, it really *is* hard to move beyond the desire to do something well right off the bat. darned perfectionism. i just force myself to start putting something on the page and usually i don’t show anyone what i’ve done! you can tell i’m loosening up because i shared this!

luckily both boys have been drawing since they were little. my 12yo is a bit of a perfectionist and likes to erase. and erase. and erase. but jack has a definite style of his own and just sets to work and gets it down.

re: tips for getting past the self-critical hump, i do give some tips about things to do and say in my post on observational drawing —

— and there are more tips in this post on drawing with the young and/or reluctant —

— i think doing drawing exercises like contour drawing and blind contour drawing can really help you loosen up and see that you *can* get something good on the paper —

— and a post on my older son’s tendency toward perfectionism (honestly inherited from yours truly) —

— *and*, as if that wasn’t enough, i would also advise you to really mix it up. do the watercolor techniques (below), work with oil pastels or charcoal on really big paper, draw with chalk on the sidewalk or driveway, paint, collage. cover some paper with watercolors and then cut it up the next day and do eric carle-style collages. and so on. try to find that relaxed flow feeling of just making something for no particular reason. then go back to doing brief (10 minutes, say) sketches of things right in front of you (chair, shoe, etc.) to practice drawing observationally. browse together through urban sketchers (below) and see the many different styles and ways of representing, so you know that there isn’t just one right way to capture something on paper. and have fun!!

if you try any of this out, be sure and let me know!

Comment by Arwen on April 8, 2009 at 10:42 PM

re: getting over being self-critical (an art student's perspective) - Draw a lot. It takes practice to learn to "see" and to put what you see on the page. It also takes practice to accept that the things you produce of are of any worth. Instead of using, "I don't like it," as a reason to stop drawing, use it as a reason to draw more - to practice more.

I like Mona Brookes' "Drawing With Children" because she spend a lot of time just working on getting over the common idea of "I can't do it." One of the things she says that I like is that you don't have to like everything you do. Even a professional artist doesn't like every single picture or piece he produces. I think just about every artist has some failures and experiments and things he just doesn't like that the public never sees. You never learn if you don't let yourself make mistakes.

There's also something my watercolor teacher I had last year was always saying that I really liked. She was always reminding us, "You're an artist, not a camera." By which she meant (I believe) that as an artist you are not trying to reproduce what's in front of you exactly. You are making your own version of it. Think "Starry Night" by Van Gogh. Not a camera.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 8, 2009 at 11:05 PM

thank you, arwen!

“drawing with children” is a great resource. i love “you’re an artist, not a camera.” :^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 8, 2009 at 11:10 PM

re: drawing a lot, as arwen said, i was just talking to lori (laeroport) in e-mail and wanted to add a couple things … whenever we did free drawing or any other art, we would always do a quick observational sketch first — like limbering up. ;^) and also, when the boys were smaller, we used to draw for 15 minutes every night, right before i would read aloud. the time would fly by, we would talk the whole time, and we all drew together, tumbled in bed. we usually drew each other (like a foot — hard to draw much else when we were all moving!) or something tossed on the bed, like a stuffed animal or something off my bedside table. we were just in the habit of doing a lot of quick observational sketches — and i treasure those sketchbooks now! :^)

Comment by Dawn on April 9, 2009 at 12:34 AM

Wonderful to see your sketches! This is a baby steps area for us... If I ever say... "we are going to sketch now"... it never happens. If I just sit down and start drawing they usually gravitiate to the table and join in...

My struggle right now is that Dylan (almost 3) is no longer happy with scribbles on a page being a truck because he says its a truck! He really wants it to look like a truck, gets upset, and wants me to draw it for him... I am going to peruse the site to see if you have addressed this... and read some of those links above again!
Thanks so much for such a wonderful resource Lori!

Comment by Dawn on April 9, 2009 at 12:36 AM

Oh, Lori! I just checked out Urban Sketchers. That is awesome! Thanks for the link!

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 9, 2009 at 12:47 AM

dawn, yay, glad you like urban sketchers! we love it!

baby steps are good .. and yes, i think i do address that in some of those links up above (perfectionist and obs drawing with young/reluctant). don’t draw for them! just ask which part of the truck they are going to draw first .. talk about what shape it is .. have them trace it with their finger in the air .. ask “do you see anything else you can add?” — and hang up their pictures! label them! show them to your family and treat them with respect and appreciation! :^)

let me know how it goes!

Comment by Alison Kerr on April 9, 2009 at 12:59 AM

That's a great bridge. It looks SO like one that isn't far from me. Either we're neighbors and don't know it, or this style of bridge is quite common.

In our house we seem to drift from one art form to another. If we're writing we're not drawing, and vice versa. My teen daughter had about a month long artist's block when she took a writing class which absorbed a lot of her energy. She's not totally past the block yet.

Now my challenge is to get my son doing some kind of art. It's been a while since he's written, drawn or taken photos, yet he is quite creative when he wants to be. For him, we need some kind of project that gets him interacting, like doing a contest set for him by his sister, or writing a joint story or cartoon strip. Otherwise he just has no interest. It's the other person's attention that gets him working, preferably his sister. Mom doesn't "cut it"!

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 9, 2009 at 01:22 AM

this style is pretty common in the midwest! :^)

getting into a habit really does keep the art flowing .. i think spending time either in the studio or with access to materials every day also acts as a provocation. and of course, as you say — and as dawn said! :^) — the biggest provocation is someone else making art!

Comment by Jill on April 9, 2009 at 12:02 PM

WOW, Lori, thanks for taking the time to answer me in such detail. I will be checking all your info out. I absolutely love the idea of drawing together for 15 minutes before bedtime reading. I love the visual you provided too. So going to try this!!

Comment by Dawn on April 9, 2009 at 12:32 PM

Thanks Lori! I have resisted drawing it for him... it's hard! We have talked about the shapes of things... I'll just hang in there with the little man!

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 9, 2009 at 01:41 PM

jill, thank you! i’m glad that was helpful! :^)

dawn, stick with it — you can do it! observational drawing is really the key to drawing better .. it’s mostly about learning to *look* first, so you really put down what you see.

i have had children whose parents were convinced could not and *would* not draw (as in — wouldn’t sit still to draw anything properly! :^) and the blind contour & contour drawing followed by short, intense sessions of observational drawing really showed both child and parent what they could do.

Comment by Andrea on April 9, 2009 at 02:15 PM

I am so happy I found this blog. so much information. I just wish I had the time tos it down and read all of it at once!

Comment by estea on April 9, 2009 at 03:34 PM

you're such good drawlers, as my littlest would say ;)

loving his perspective.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 9, 2009 at 05:29 PM

thank you, andrea! :^)

e, aw, thank you — and yes! you can tell i was sitting directly in front and he was off to my right! :^)

Comment by maya | springtr... on April 9, 2009 at 06:28 PM


Comment by Dawn on April 10, 2009 at 10:54 AM

All right! I sat down last night before dinner... Asked Dylan if I could draw his favorite truck... put it on the table. He came running over. Fionna right on his tail! I started drawing. I was talking about what I saw... shapes. He wanted me to help him and I just told him I was working on mine right now... and asked him what shapes he saw. He started with circles... and filled his page with lots of circles... of all different colors. Seemed happy at the moment with that and was very keen to observe my drawing.
Fionna on the other hand was trying to get me lined out and wanted to draw on my drawing... I told her it was one that I wanted to work on by myself but we could draw one together later... she got upset... stormed off but was back in a minute to say that she just wated to help... I thanked her... and suggested she work on her own at the time and we could pick something for a together drawing later. She seemed fine with this and went on to draw the caterpillar she found today!
Any recommendations for when they want to draw with you on your paper? Is that just a thing that sometimes we do that and other times we want to work on our own drawing! We have already had many discussions about respecting other people art work.
Oh... and when Dad came home Dylan pointed to MY drawing and said "Dad look at my drawing... my truck!" It was interesting how he was there with me the whole time watching and listening... and took some ownership of the drawing. He showed off his circles as well.
Sorry for the play-by-play here... just trying to get some more peaceful, happy and productive drawing time going! :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 10, 2009 at 03:36 PM

dawn, i love your play by play! thank you!

re: drawing on the same piece of paper — if that is something you do together sometimes, i would just do exactly as you did and say that you could draw something together later.

with dylan, you might want to explore labeling his observational drawings — if he draws a circle and says it is the wheel, write “wheel” next to it, and so on. he might draw the different parts of the truck all over the page; that would be age appropriate for him. the important thing to focus on is observation and seeing details; the drawing skills come along with time — and they depend on those seeing skills!

looking forward to seeing fionna’s caterpillar!

if you don’t already have them, you might want to have special sketchbooks for doing this sketching .. you start off with your special sketchbook and then offer that if they also want to do observational sketching, they could have special sketchbooks for that purpose, too. then remember to take photographs of at least some of the things they sketch — if you print them off on regular printer paper (b&w), you can have good conversations about details, what they drew, etc., and especially when it veers into project work — you can display photos and sketches together, and that can inspire other kinds of work on the same subject (modeling with clay, making models, paintings, books, etc.).

the most useful prompt during observational drawing is “do you see anything else you can add?” — encouraging them to look for more details to add, which in turn encourages them to develop that level of attention and focus.

sounds like you have made a lovely start! let me know how things go!

Comment by Elise on April 10, 2009 at 08:11 PM

Oh, I love this too! We're just starting to implement more of a 'family drawing time' per the suggestion in Amanda Soule's 'The Creative Family'. So far it's fun - my next mission is to get my husband involved too.

Have you seen the book The Creative License by Danny Gregory? That's been really inspiring me to get back into drawing as well - loosening me up from my own perfectionism.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 10, 2009 at 08:28 PM

i love danny gregory!

Comment by Dawn on April 10, 2009 at 10:29 PM

Thanks Lori! I will keep you updated...
Fionna added lots of detail... that turned her drawing into what caterpillar would look like "out in the wild"
Then she cut him out of the drawing because... he is no longer in the wild! :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 10, 2009 at 10:32 PM

lolol, that sounds like fionna!

Comment by Thimbleina on April 11, 2009 at 02:55 PM

Great idea - we wil have to definately try this.

Comment by www.bagelsandcr... on April 11, 2009 at 03:49 PM

I have such good memories of drawing alongside both my parents in all sorts of settings. I value Susan Striker's book "Young at Art" but one thing that has often nagged me about her book is that she discourages parents from drawing too realistically in front of their children because it can set them up for frustration and comparison. I haven't really followed her advice in that area...I enjoy drawing and want my kids to see me doing things I enjoy and coming from a family of artists my children are frequently surrounded by all different kinds of artists and works in progress. I enjoyed your thoughts in the comments section on this topic and will take a look at the links. Also, the comment by Arwen about not liking everything that is made...helpful to keep that in mind and share that with my kids.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 11, 2009 at 04:14 PM

that advice — re: parents (or teachers) not drawing with children — has always driven me crazy. we don’t hold back doing anything else as adults — reading, writing, math, playing tennis, cooking, playing music, etc. etc. etc. why art? no artist who draws with her children dumbs down her art, i can tell you that. she shares what she loves, the joy in drawing, painting, and making art. why should any child be *discouraged* rather than *encouraged* to draw with an adult? it’s not like they sit in the backseat thinking “oh, goodness me, i’ll never be able to drive a car like mom — i don’t think i’ll even try.” it’s a silly point of view, imho. the best way to introduce children to drawing is to sit down and draw with them — whether you are a talented artist or just beginning.

the other thing that annoys me about that warning to not “draw too realistically” is this assumption that children can’t do realistic observational drawings, which they absolutely can. i have beautifully detailed drawings from life done by three- and four-year-olds. i also have art books that say children can’t draw from life until they are 9 or 10 — ridiculous!

oop — bit of a rant! :^) ah well, i feel strongly about this!

Comment by Leisa on April 13, 2009 at 03:20 AM

I'm so glad I didn't miss this pic! It's awesome! I'm so proud of you... seriously. Very impressed and wish I was out sketching in the sunlight with you!

Comment by Barbara on April 13, 2009 at 12:42 PM

love this. i have been really going at my sketching lately... and I feel a little off if the day goes by with out sketching something. really enjoying seeing my little girl have the same feelings!

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 13, 2009 at 08:12 PM

thank you, leisa! ;^) i think i’m finally getting used to going out without you! (sadly!)

thank you, barbara — i agree, it’s a wonderful thing to share! :^)

Comment by Megan: the Byro... on April 18, 2009 at 07:57 AM

Lori thanks for this post! I am in the process of encouraging my little family to join me on more nature walks, but I really love your idea of setting out together specifically to draw - stopping wherever the inspiration hits.
And, setting aside a specific journal to record it.
Yes, I'm really liking this idea.


Comment by Lori Pickert on April 18, 2009 at 01:16 PM

thank you, megan!

we are turning it into even more of a ritual; we’ve started going out in the early mornings and having a breakfast picnic almost every day we go. then we go somewhere to sketch.

i’ve noticed that we are all paying more attention when we are out at other times — pointing out things that would be good to come back and draw!

Comment by Susan on April 21, 2009 at 01:18 AM

I think we just drove across that bridge today taking a long cut into town.

It was lovely there.

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