I have recently come across a method of teaching children to draw which has caught my attention. In the past it is something that I might have shied away from on the grounds that it is quite prescriptive. It follows a set approach and claims that it can help anyone (including adults) to draw better. In the past I have been more of the ‘happy-clappy’ mindset that drawing comes from within and that it should be a free medium in which children can express themselves. While I still very much believe this and definitely think that no child should ever be told that what they have drawn is ‘wrong’ I am being slowly won over by this more steps-driven approach.
There are two main reasons for this:
- The creator of this method (Mona Brookes)makes the point that if a child is learning a musical instrument, we do not expect them just to pick it up and get on with it. I can imagine that this would be very demoralising for the child and any potential self-expression would be hindered greatly by not being able to technically operate the instrument. In the same way, drawing is a technical skill that needs to be learnt before it can be adapted and used creatively.
- I have seen in my after-school clubs how children, particularly as they get a bit older, start to feel unable to draw certain things. This is not down to a lack of ability but more down to not having ever been taught the skills required. Once they are shown (often with a few simple tips) a whole world is opened up to them and their confidence soars.
The more I think about it, the more odd it seems that Art is just about the only subject in which children often don’t get any clear direction (certainly in the primary years). No wonder so many are put off art as they get older and say they can’t draw. If they had been left to figure out Maths or English by themselves I imagine they would feel much the same about that!
So, with this is mind, I intend to alter my approach and see what happens. I look on it as giving the children a ‘toolkit’ of skills that they can adapt and use in their own way. I am going to break down drawing into its basic elements of line and shape through a series of fun exercises and help the children to deploy this knowledge to tackle challenging subject matter. My hope is that this will put them on the right track to being able to draw how they would like to and give them a sense of achievement. Watch this space to see how it goes. I will come back to this in a few weeks with an update!
(The book I am reading is called ‘Drawing with Children’ by Mona Brookes)