Guided Drawing



Initial bird drawing by Eady, age 6


Rainbow Bird by Eady, age 6

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had become interested in the Mona Brookes method of teaching drawing and that I was going to give it a go in some of my Art Explorers After School Clubs.  Well, I am pleased to report that it has been going pretty well and, although I have adapted bits to suit my style of teaching, the general idea of guided drawing is really paying off. The pictures above illustrate ‘before’ and ‘after’.  This was not deliberate; when told we were going to be drawing birds one girl said ‘I can draw really good birds’ and proceeded to sketch out the picture above.  I am so please she did though as it is lovely to see the improvements that can be made with a bit of guidance.  This girl is six years old and I love her initial take on a bird.  She clearly knew that birds have beaks but then when she came to add the eyes she reverted to the standard face of eyes, nose and mouth.  She also, as many children are, was unclear about the idea of what we can not see when a face is in profile, placing both eyes on one side of the head.  The picture does show a good idea of the basic shape of a bird and good control of her pen which stood her in good stead for bird number two.

For the second bird I provided all of the children with black fineliners and paper and fixed a large sheet of paper onto the wall for myself.  The idea here is to guide the children through the drawing by talking about decisions such as placement, size, type of line so that they can begin to understand the necessary thought processes. We all started with a dot surrounded by a circle for the eye of the bird and we talked about how if this bird is in profile we would only see one eye. We then used a series of angle lines and straight lines to make a beak.  I asked them to think about what type of bird they wanted to draw.  Would it be a humming bird (long beak) or a parrot (shorter beak), for example.  A couple of curved lines later and we had our birds head.  What I love about working with children this age is that they all have their own style and even when following a set of instructions it is impossible for any two picture to turn out the same. We added the body of the bird (straight line, followed by a curved line) and then let our imaginations go wild, adding wings and tail feathers.  A couple of straight and curved lines for the feet and they all had a bird that they were already pretty proud of.  Some were sitting, some were flying, some were tropical birds, some were ducks.  They all used their imaginations to give their bird an identity of some kind.

I then showed them how to add in a background by thinking about where their bird would be found.  Would they be flying in the sky? Sitting on a branch? On a nest? By a pond? Once again, even the youngest children, some of whom are only four, rose to the challenge and added some wonderfully detailed and creative backgrounds.  Some careful colouring later and voila! Beautiful bird pictures that they were rightly extremely proud of.

What I liked about this method is the balance between allowing the children to use their creativity and providing them with a structure so that they can achieve their aim and feel satisfied with the outcome.  It was lovely sending them home with pictures that they were dying to show their families.  Getting pleasure from art is what it is all about, after all.

You can see some more wonderful bird drawings by children aged from 4 – 7 on our facebook page


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