Everyone Can Draw

By Unsworth, Jean Morman | Arts & Activities, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Everyone Can Draw


Unsworth, Jean Morman, Arts & Activities


Every child can draw. Just ask first-graders. Every hand will fly up. But ask again in third grade and many will be hesitant. By fifth grade, there are just a few "artists." What happens to the confidence of those early years?

Drawing is a complementary mode of expressing learning, more natural than handwriting. Everyone can draw. But as children begin to look critically at their drawings, usually by age 8 or 9, they decide they aren't up to their A or B average and just stop. When examples are set before them to copy, the feeling of inadequacy starts even earlier.

Just as handwriting develops into individual styles, becoming each person's identification, so does each person's drawing style. No two people will draw the same, even if they are trying to copy another drawing. If teachers convey this to their students, they can encourage continued effort to draw.

Compare these drawings of trees by fifth-grade students. Each shows keen perception. Moreover, each solves the problem of foliage in an individual way (see Illustrations 1, 2 and 3). The lesson presented to them was simply, "Pretend your eye is a bug crawling up the trunk of the tree and out each branch. Draw everything you see."

[ILLUSTRATIONS 1-3 OMITTED]

Most important--the teacher should never draw and ask students to copy the drawing. The simplest and most effective approach to drawing is to "trust your eyes." If the child--or adult--simply lets the eye follow every edge, the hand will record it. Most often, stick figures or lollipop trees are the result of a left-brain drawing of a standard concept instead of the right-brain-oriented activity of perceptual looking.

This drawing of the student's home was done from careful looking, starting with the door and working out from it in all directions. Its charm is in the absence of mathematical perspective (see Illustration 4).

[ILLUSTRATION 4 OMITTED]

The arts are unique in their potential to develop the necessary attitude toward risk-taking and learning from "failure"--the failure that comes from trying creative ideas and most often stimulates new and better ideas. More classroom teachers than I can count have drawn their shoe in my workshops and were so astounded at the drawing they did that they wanted to take it home and frame it. Often, these same teachers, believing they could not draw, would never initiate an art lesson in their classroom.

This kind of intense looking has other advantages. It is a direct preparation for reading, since it trains the eye to follow a line. …

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