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A reader who wanted to know how to teach art to children recently contacted me. I have a lot of experience in that department, and have developed some methods that I think work well. When I owned and operated my teaching studio, the after-school program was huge. I also had the pleasure of teaching art many home-schooled kids.
Teaching kids how to draw is fun but, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be overly structured, especially for the really young ones. I’ve seen many kids give up on art at an early age because they begin associating “right” or “wrong” aspects of their drawings.
I received many phone calls from parents who see some budding talent in their children, and thought for sure they had the next Rembrandt incarnate. They immediately wanted to get them into a structured class, even though they were only perhaps four years old.
Personally, I don’t think kids under the age of 10 should have any hard and fast instructions at all. I know some will disagree with me but I believe that children should just be creative on their own for as long as possible. They should be given ample materials to play with, along with a boatload of encouragement! Never ask, “Oh, what is that?” Instead, say “Wow, that’s impressive!” Give them time to experiment and develop their own style, before pushing them into a defined process. That’s what coloring is for.
Kids develop artistically the same, regardless of race, location, or upbringing. Studies show that at certain ages, they all represent things in art the same way. Give crayons to five-year-olds in every part of the world, ask them to draw a cat, and then compare them. The child in Africa will draw the cat in very much same way as a kid in the outback, or the kid in my family. It’s just how the human brain develops.
When I taught children, I came up with a method that they loved. I taught them to use the projector to aid in their hand/eye coordination. Kids lack the ability to be exact in their freehand abilities, so naturally they get frustrated! It isn’t their fault, it’s just fact. Using the projector gave them confidence. You wouldn’t believe the looks on their faces when they came out with a recognizable outline! It also gave them the ability to draw all of their favorite subjects. I had bins full of reference photos for them to wade through, which was also highly inspirational. Using the projector for an outline aided them in seeing shapes accurately. I showed them which shapes were important, and which to leave out. To them, it was magic.
I then showed them the famous Hammond blended pencil technique, and how to simply put shadows under things, and on one side. Youth pick up on that theory really quickly. Keep it simple; you don’t have to go into a heck of a lot of detail. Using this method, suddenly everything they draw has a shadow! Again, the look on their faces when something starts to look 3-D is priceless. It’s at that point where the truly artistic child becomes unstoppable.
As they age, their ability to draw shapes accurately kicks in. Using the projector to draw actually helps them develop hand/eye coordination. While this is developing, they already have the rendering techniques down, and the results are amazing.
For older kids, (10 and up) many schools use my two books Draw Real People and Draw Real Animals. Both of those books are designed for youngsters. It starts them off using the grid method, which is my way of teaching shapes through written material. The grid is a fun tool for kids, making their drawings appear like a puzzle. I like anything that takes away the fear of failure, and makes art fun!
This is just my way of approaching the kiddos. Every teacher has a different method. Just make it fun, and make it achievable. My way of teaching must have worked, for many of the kids are still taking classes with me as adults, and many of them have become professional artists and teachers themselves. I love my job!
Have a wonderful week,
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!
• Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond