Draw with your Children
Mona Brookes wrote an excellent book entitled Drawing with Children which is a good source not only for teachers but for parents and beginners too. While teaching Art this week to a group of eight year old boys, “bad boys” that are interested in music and rebellion and who may have “issues”, I reached for this book and shared the illustrations on how a human figure can be constructed with the use of shapes and forms. They were shown how mastery of the basic shapes and forms yields the ability to draw just about anything. That got their attention, in spite of the fact that the studio that I was teaching in is no longer an art room but has been converted to a computer lab. The art room is no longer considered important enough to fund.
We proceeded to deconstruct the drawings in a beloved children’s book entitled Danny the Dinosaur by Sid Hoff, identifying the basic shapes that are combined to make the illustrations. Then the students were allowed to create their own drawings of either dinosaurs or monsters that resonated with them. It was interesting how many chose to draw devil related images. The class hushed as the boys became immersed in the creative process. They became polite young men, asking for help when they needed it. The transformation was stunning. These little rebels were calm, quiet, polite, engaged, and serious. All their jocular energy dispersed toward the heavenly muses. They were engaged and interested in what they were making.
By the end of the session they looked happy and affectionate. Some demons had been mysteriously expelled through the act of drawing. I have witnessed this sort of moment over and over again in the forty years that I have taught people of all ages to draw. It remains a surprising phenomenon that is part of the magic of art making and art teaching. The boy that had walked in determined to give me a hard time left class saying to his pal, “I never knew drawing could be so much fun!” And there was the payback for all my years of thinking about this stuff and looking for good examples to show my students. I was able to pass on something to the next generation that had been given to me by my elders. Drawing saved my spirit if not my life at one time and this boy now carries a key. I had led my students to a door and he had opened it and walked through. Moments like this with the arts in my childhood were lifesavers that have carried me through many of life’s rough waters. That mirror world of art, where one can express something without words is an awe inspiring place of discovery.
Creativity is valuable on so many levels, but especially in affirming life. Even when you enter a drawing with anxiety and negativity, there is a point where that door opens and YES is a viable option again. Creativity wins over destruction on some level that draws wonder and excitement through the use of the simple tools of a stick and dirt on a surface. Drawing with children is a lasting gift of freedom of expression that is so profoundly human, be it something drawn with a stick at the beach or with fine paper and beautiful pencils.