You may have seen the videos I made on my DrawStuffRealEasy channel about Euclid, a genius Ancient Greek guy, who devised a brilliant and simple step by step method of teaching geometry.
Those videos made me realise that there is a similar step-by-step way to teach the basics of drawing, that is easy and not scary, if you are really a little bit unsure of your hidden skills.
My new book, Everyone Can Draw, explains the basics of drawing with links to helpful videos on my channels.
I think drawing is like writing – you need to learn the letter shapes to make the words to make the sentences that make sense.
This book will be the foundation of a new style of drawing video that I will be making soon on my DrawStuffRealEasy channel.
Signed copies are available from me for only 4.99 plus postage (that’s around €6 in Europe, or $8.5 in the US and Canada depending on the exchange rate.) The first 30 orders will also get a free poster of me to cheer up your walls!
I so loved this article and agree with everything it says, I wanted to republish it as I am allowed to. Many thanks to Misty Adoniou.
Want to improve your kids’ writing? Let them draw
By Misty Adoniou, University of Canberra
We love our kids’ first drawings. They draw before they write, so their drawings seem somehow miraculous in those early years – their first communication that is permanent and there for all to see.
Preschool is all about drawing and painting. Large canvasses of abstract finger paintings give way to recognisable broad stroke figures, houses, and sunny skies. We celebrate every image and give them pride of place on the fridge door.
The disappearance of children’s drawings
Once school starts, nobody really takes drawing seriously anymore. In the classroom, drawings begin to take second place to writing. Young children quickly learn that success at school is measured by how well you can read and write, not by how good your drawings are. Their drawings are now just decorations that they get to do if they finish their writing.
Too often in classrooms we view drawing as a crutch, or a distraction that we want children to grow out of, so they can focus on the ‘real’ task of writing.
But we seriously misunderstand the function of drawings, and their contribution to learning, if we think they are just what children do when they can’t yet write.
Drawing is not the evolutionary inferior to writing – writing and drawing are two distinct communication systems, and each deserves their place in the communicative repertoire of our children.
Drawing improves writing
Drawing and writing support each other. The poet e.e.cummings was both an artist and a writer, and when asked whether these two pursuits interfered with each other, he replied,
‘On the contrary, they love each other’
And his experience is backed up by the research.
Children who draw before they tackle writing tasks produce better writing – it’s longer, more syntactically sophisticated and has a greater variety of vocabulary. It is likely this is because the act of drawing concentrates the mind on the topic at hand, and provides an avenue for rehearsal before writing – rather like a first draft where they can sort things out before having to commit words to a page.
If you have ever read a 10 year old’s long and winding story you will know how much a first draft would enhance comprehensibility. And if you’ve ever taught 10 year olds you will also know they are not terribly inclined to do multiple written drafts. They’d rather sum up all their story’s inconsistencies with ‘It was all a dream’ than follow a teacher’s suggestion to go back and make significant changes.
As a first draft, drawings are much easier to erase, to add to, and to rearrange. They provide a common reference point for the teacher and the child to discuss the story before it is written, and this is an important additional oral rehearsal that strengthens the quality of the writing. Ideas are clarified and vocabulary strengthened.
The message to teachers is a simple one – instead of telling children they can draw a picture if they finish their writing, have them draw before writing.
Just for the talented few?
Drawings are not the sole province of the ’talented’. Of course there are children with a natural talent for drawing, but they shouldn’t be the only ones who enjoy drawing, any more than we think only the naturally talented writers should write.
Everybody should have the opportunity to use drawing as a means of expression and communication – just as everyone should learn to write. And for those children with a drawing talent, closing down drawing in the classroom can feel to them like just another brick in the wall.
Everyone can learn to draw
Drawing is a teachable skill, just as writing is. Most of us have a romantic notion of drawing – we see someone who produces life-like images and sigh, knowing we could never do that.
The child who claims to be bad at drawing, furiously erasing parts of their drawing till the paper wears away, has probably learned what ‘good’ drawing is from unthinking comments from adults who have ‘helpfully’ observed that the sky isn’t red, or that their Easter bunny looks like a kangaroo.
Indeed there does come an age, usually around 8 or 9 years, when we begin to see our drawings as others do, and most of us are usually disappointed with what we see – and give up on drawing. But actually, with tuition and encouragement, all of us can learn to draw pretty well, and more importantly, feel the pleasure that comes with this kind of expression.
To promote a classroom where drawing is valued, get rid of colouring in stencils. Let kids freehand draw and paint, and don’t be afraid to teach some drawing skills so they can get what is in their mind’s eye down on paper. You won’t be stifling their creativity, you will be ensuring they never lose it.
Drawing helps in other academic areas
We understand things more deeply when we see them from multiple perspectives. Drawing what you have understood from a reading passage, drawing the science experiment you have just done or drawing the detail of an autumn leaf are all examples of engaging with the same learning from a different angle.
For most children, this helps consolidate the learning but for some children it can be the key they have been waiting for to open the door to the learning. The confidence and self belief this gives them can change their attitude and engagement with other aspects of schooling.
Closing doors and building walls
If our only measure of success at school is performance in standardised literacy and numeracy tests, schools will be tempted to narrow their curriculum and to sideline the Arts. It is already happening
This is disastrous, not just for the Arts and all their intrinsic worth – but for the reading and writing skills we are so focussed on improving.
Drawing improves children’s writing, and can enhance learning in other areas – so let kids draw.
Misty Adoniou does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
There were around 20 authors there, pitching their books and ideas to librarians, school librarians, teachers, bloggers and actual readers too! It was fascinating to hear them speak passionately about their books and learn what drives them on.
I’d say just over half of the authors were YA novelists.
What is YA? YA stands for Young Adults, a genre of books that has grown from nowhere in the last few years. Harry Potter and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books are probably what ignited the massive growth of this genre.
Many YA books are actually read by adults hungry for real stories, with a proper beginning, middle and end, with a proper plot that provides drama, entertainment and emotion – something that literary fiction has drifted away from.
It’s interesting that the library group is called the Youth Libraries Group. Personally, I define that word “youth” as being over thirteen years old.
As a children’s author I loosely define children’s books as being for primary/elementary children – say eleven-ish and under. I think that works well as a generalisation, leaving a buffer zone of twelve year old tweenies – year 7 in the UK – who frequently need parental permission to take out some YA books from the school library.
Yesterday, I felt as far removed from the YA authors and their discussions as I would be in a room of crime authors or romantic novelists.
As I listened to the YA authors talking about their books, I realised we are actually in a totally different business. But, as YA are generally published by children’s publishers, we all get lumped together.
This makes me feel uncomfortable, as I would be if crime novelists came to a children’s book festival and talked about their serial murderer books. Actually, serial murder and graphic sex is exactly what you could expect from some YA novels, and yet they still come under the umbrella term of children’s books.
Yesterday, the YA authors passionately defended putting sex in their novels. As an adult, I quite understand where they are coming from, but as a children’s author, I came to realise that my world of books and stories has nothing to do with theirs. In the end, we were talking about two totally different things from two totally different viewpoints, in a language that sounded vaguely similar. In truth some of the words we used had quite opposite meanings!
I got myself into trouble over an article I wrote last year about YA Books. I obviously didn’t make myself clear, as I didn’t recognise any of the arguments made against me at the time.
I have no problem with YA Books as a genre. I think it’s wonderful that young adults can find books written for them about issues that are dear and meaningful to them. I know I would have been an avid YA reader had such books been available to me when I was a young adult – or youth as we were called at the time.
In an afternoon break-out group about publishing, we discussed how the marketing of books is totally different to the marketing of anything other product. Normal marketing rules do not apply. Books may all look the same and be made the same way on the same machines in the same factories, but they are not a general commodity. Each book is an individual product with it’s own market.
Each genre of book has it’s own distinct market too. Very few cross over into other markets.
YA is one genre. Children’s books are another.
Now I have that sorted in my head, I need never read another YA book or worry about them again! They have nothing to do with me, my genre or my market.
Now, back to writing children’s books …for children!
It’s a weird thing drawing the covers when I haven’t actually written the books yet! I really need to get on with writing too – deadlines are looming.
The publishing business needs to see the covers as soon as possible, so that marketing can start swinging into action. There are catalogues to be produced, schedules to be organised, printers to be booked and warehouse space to be allocated. So much to do and all waiting for me to get what is in my head out onto paper.
Here’s a video explaining how I paint the covers and a bit of chat about designing covers too!
Are you getting excited by the British Museum Vikings Exhibition? I am! The British museum is one my most favourite places in the world and the new exhibition is going to open the brand new World Conservation and Exhibition Centre.
Having a Norwegian mother, I always thought I would grow up to be a Viking. Unfortunately there are few jobs for Vikings these days, so I became a children’s author and illustrator instead.
Eventually the time came to write my Viking stories. I was inspired the day I went to my Auntie’s Hutte – or little holiday house – on an island not far from Bergen in Norway.The Hutte looks down on a small inlet from the sea.There was a moment when I put the name and the geography together and realised that Snekkevik (Snake Vik) would have once been a Viking settlement.
The name Viking means “People of the Viks“. This inlet was a Vik and this is where Vikings would have lived. Now you can drive there over bridges and there is gas and electricity too. But I could imagine Viking children playing on the beach, just as my children were doing a thousand years later.
Viking Vik was born in my imagination! A lot of work later and The eight book series became a reality. If you are studying Vikings, you may like to have a bit of Viking related reading. They’re both fun and informative – boys love them :D
Learn to draw Viking Vik!
“What’s a crumpet?” I hear you say, Shame on you. Crumpets are the most delicious teatime bread/cake/bun – not sure what to call it. They are a little rubbery and they have holes in the top side. When toasted, butter melts into the holes. Lovely covered with jam, jelly, marmalade, honey or, I suppose, even peanut butter.
When you bite into a crumpet the melted butter will drip down your chin and all over your fingers and clothes! delicious! Watch the video and learn how to draw one!
I’m sure many people will be wanting to draw a WW1 tank as the centenary of the first world war is upon us. This one is fairly simple. I shall do another more action scene too soon. If you would like me to draw more WW1 things, let me know in the comments
If you don’t know what to draw on a card for Valentine’s Day, here are 78 ideas for you. There must be something in there that you can use! Click the video to be taken to a video that will explain how to draw in more detail.