Saturday, 27 October 2012

Teaching Art to Children - Drawing exercises

There are a number of exercises that I have derived from art teaching methodologies for teaching art to young children.  One thing I hope to always be consistent with is a drawing exercise in the class.

Caveat to all of these is that there should never be any pressure or expectation.  Your child may just not be ready for this, whether it is confidence or ability to hold a pencil or brush, concentration or simply lack of desire to draw, your child can be engaged in the building blocks to drawing.  Fine motor skill builders like singing songs with finger actions like incy-wincy spider, use of scissors, gluing, felt image play, collage, pipettes.  I used to call my son an installation artist because he seemed to not be interested at all in drawing and lost interest in painting but he loved to take out whatever he could find in the cupboards and create these great installations with piles of stuff, purposefully arranged.  He also never lost his love for craft and now, out of the blue he is amazing at drawing.

Here are overviews of the exercises.

Mirror image  This exercise involves creating a grid on the page and placing increasing complex shapes in the left hand column for the child to copy into the right hand column.  As I am drawing with very young children this involves creating a shape or simple shape grouping image with at least the first image demonstrating the intention and giving visual direction with a dotted line example in the right hand box.  The shape can be as simple as a triangle, building on previous lesson printouts by combining that triangle with other shapes to make a more complex image.

Simple Shape exploration  Monart describes a shape alphabet, which condenses every object down to the sum of it's parts for the purpose of artistic reproduction.  This exercise will use different shapes elements from this alphabet and mediums to freely engage the child in making marks on paper with different art mediums under minimal instruction.  Swirls with water colour, lines with different density of graphite, squares, dots, zig zags, circles, angles.   Slowly introducing more elements of the alphabet until the child can easily reproduce any one element under instruction.

Simple shape grouping  This exercise involves talking the group or individual child through creation of a particular image through detailed description of the simple shape elements that can be used in its construction.  To do this, there is no need to use a prop or example image, just ensure you are describing something the students are all familiar with.  Starting with a face or child is perfect because it a subject they are all familiar with.  Build from the top or bottom, like the stacking of different shaped blocks.  Describe the two boxes with round corners lying down on their sides for feet, the two lines coming out of each one for the legs, the long circle for the body, the two lines coming out of the body for the neck, the circle stacked on these two lines for the head.   Step the child through as many steps as they can tolerate to create an object.  A house, tree or bird can be an easy beginning as the steps to form the shape are fewer.  Combine with mirror image exercise to combine simple shapes together to form an object, such as the squares and circles of a simple house drawing.

Critical observation  There are many ways to engage a child in critical thinking about the world and ideas.  This exercise is aimed at getting young children to think critically about the shape elements of an object, it's attributes and proportions.  Choose an object in theme for the class or flavour of the day for your child.  Explore it together, then have the children explain the item to you as you draw it on a large piece of paper or card.  This is an element of art that I have always found myself doing very naturally, those elements I rarely draw I need to dedicate intent to breaking down critically, for me this is landscape and cityscape.  I have always found myself critically exploring the human face and I love drawing and painting people, dreamscapes and animals but landscapes, although I love nature, I have typically not used as my subject matter and have deliberately spent time in critical observation to be able to work more freely while I try and expand my ability.

Visualisation  There is a great Monart process for approaching a drawing or painting exercise at the beginning of class.  This is an exercise to help an art student approach a blank piece of paper which can appear very daunting if you place pressure on yourself.  I do not know if young children really feel this intimidation as they all just seem happy to enjoy the process rather than stress about the outcome but I think this is still a wonderful approach to calming the child and helping them to visualise an image or idea for an image.  Have the child place their elbows on the table and cup their hands over their eyes, without placing any pressure on their eyeballs as you do not want to hurt or damage them.  This allows for a nice internal blank canvas and a calm dark space for them to work without any constraint placed on them by ability to hold or control their pencil or paint brush.  Give them this time to spend thinking about what they would like to draw and then let them loose to create whatever they wish without pressure to reproduce what they have been visualising, instead hopefully this has acted as inspiration to draw with even more enthusiasm.

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