A little friend of mine exploring color with brushes and a brayer
This post is to answer a reader’s questions about how I approach teaching drawing to kids. Perhaps it’s of interest to all my readers. So here goes.
I take an open approach, with the structure tailored to age-appropriate activities. Young preschool-age children greatly benefit from just having plenty of materials in front of them so that they can explore making marks and putting down colors. Washable markers are great for this age group, and watercolors are fantastic for them, because they are easy cleanup as well. It’s OK to mix it up. Pencil, marker, and paint all in the same work of art.
Provide protective clothing — an old t-shirt maybe, plenty of space at a table, and let them go. For watercolors, they need larger brushes than those that are included with a kids’ watercolor set — perhaps choices of brushes. A few small brushes (about an inch wide) from the paint aisle in the hardware store work great for spreading lots of color. Another good choice would be a couple of small sponge brushes. White construction paper is cheap and great for painting with watercolors. Show them how to keep their brushes clean, by rinsing and blotting the brush on a folded paper towel when changing colors. This is a skill even little ones can learn.
Preschool kids will draw and paint a complete work of art that only they can interpret. It’s best just to be encouraging and appreciate what they’ve done without critiquing. Even though it might not seem they are learning anything, they are. They’re learning how to express themselves, how to make their own marks, and are reinforcing eye-hand coordination. They’re seeing how colors mixed together make a different color. And most importantly, they are receiving encouragement from you to keep exploring and learning.
It’s not until 9 or 10 that kids become concerned about drawing objects realistically. Before that age, they have already developed their own symbols for things. In the last post I mistakenly stated my current student’s age as 8, but she is 9 and her 10th birthday is very soon. I’m seeing her already struggling with looking at things as they are and simultaneously attempting to just resort to her own idea of how she thinks they should look. This is a crucial time for kids learning to draw. I want to keep the experience a positive one, while helping her see things as they really are. I give her some warm-ups and then a longer session in which she draws from an object or a still life. After the focused session, we go back to a less structured time for a little while, when she gets to draw things from memory and create something just for fun.
Since taking on a student again, I have gone back to the principles contained in two books that I used to own, but had long ago donated to the public library. Now I guess I need to get them again. I highly recommend these, if you want to brush up on your drawing skills, or teach a young person to draw: