Art! Drawing part 1

I  think I had the greatest high school art teacher that ever lived. I lived in a very small town (population about 1000)  with a very small school (k-12 in the same building). We graduated about 25 kids a year. Did you know that at least one kid every year went on to some kind of art school? Did you know that among 25 kids it was usually 2-4 going into an art field? Now do you agree I may have had the best art teacher ever?

Do any of you study IEW writing? Have you at least heart their pitch? It’s the Ben Franklin method of writing. Writing (mechanics, grammar) is a left brain activity, while creative writing- what should I write about, what should I write is a right brain activity. Did you know that your right and left brains don’t talk to each other very well? they don’t work together very well at the same time.

right brain left brain                                                                photo found at

I’m a fan of the IEW approach to writing (just a fan, I’m not being paid to say so). It helps to make the process less painful because trying to accomplish something from one side at a time. Do you want to try it out? Try drawing something- anything- just a stick figure or bubble letters. Try drawing it and talking at the same time. ha!

So the first rule in my high school art class was that it is not that you are not allowed to talk in class, but I will know that if you are talking, you can’t be spending your time drawing 😉 Let me share what I learned from her. I think she had a way of reaching not just those interested in art- but taught everyone how to develop their own art talents through good teaching.

I just read an AMAZING blog post on how to teach art to your teens. Drawing specifically. She explains right/left brain and some great exercises that are meant to help you separate them. I think this is a brilliant approach and I understand this mom intends to create an art curriculum. I can’t wait!!

Have you ever tried to draw a hand? (this is a great first drawing project, you may have tried it through some drawing curriculum.) Did it end up looking a lot like a cartoon hand? Your left brain is telling you, you KNOW what a hand looks like: 1,2,3,4,5 fingers. Why does that looks so terrible? Because you didn’t SEE it with your right brain, your left brain told you what it looked like.

Would you believe that the only REAL difference between these two drawing is that one is seen with the left brain and one with the right. It has nothing to do with the pencil 😉


The book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and this blog post both give great ideas on how to TEACH your RIGHT BRAIN to see what your hand is drawing.  You’ll find the most difficult task is to ‘turn off’ your left brain. It is very bossy! This is the part that is so difficult. ‘I can’t’ is really your left brain talking. It does NOT want to give up control!

Take your left brain OUT-

Blind Contour Drawing– don’t look at your paper. AT ALL. It’s hard. Your left brain won’t like it. but if you spend 2 full minutes drawing what your SEE without looking at your paper, you’ll find that you were more accurate than when you watched.

Draw negative space– negative space is what you are NOT drawing- the spaces around the hand or consider an upright chair back. Draw the spaces in between the bars. Your left brain doesn’t know what the spaces look like!

Upside down drawing! – yes you read that right. This is probably by far my favorite!

This is a drawing by Pablo Picasso. It is GREAT for upside down drawing. Your left brain will see this man in a chair, but when you turn it upside down it is a bunch of lines (particularly starting at the top) that your left brain can’t quite understand. This will take your left brain OUT of the equation and allow your right brain to SEE the lines.

Grid Lines!– This is my favorite, every day, go to drawing project. I can end up with a drawing I’m happy with every time. I learned this using comics. Sunday paper comics. Single line drawing in a square box. Just dissect it into quarters and draw. But you can re-create anything this way and practice drawing what you SEE.

You may have seen this technique in coloring and activity books even. The idea is that when an object/scene is broken up into smaller boxes two things happen:

  1. your left brain is taken out because you are not looking at a whole object or scene, just a few lines. Cover up everything but the box you are working in. You’ll find that your right brain is quite in charge and can recreate what it sees.
  2. It keeps your drawing in place. you may have found in your Picasso upside down drawing that it grew until the whole picture didn’t fit on your drawing paper. That is good. It means you are drawing what you see- your right brain just doesn’t have a lot of boundaries or perception of space. Drawing what is in the box will keep those lines confined in the box so that when you are done the picture has come together as one piece, on one page 😉  Even if you only use two lines- cut into quarters- it gives your brain a confined space to keep the lines it sees.

Drawing within the gridlines allows your left brain to assist. It can relay to your right brain, “this line starts about 1/3 of the way up and goes that way”.

Years ago I used to take magazine photos or photographs to draw with grid lines. There are tons of resources now online (what did we ever do without google?) like this that make this a very simple task to work on.

If your child is interested in drawing something very special– a photograph for example- use a clear overlay-

  1.  a page protector sheet
  2.  an overhead projector plastic sheet (these are quite out of date but I’ve been able to find boxes of them at office supply stores and they are very easy to use. sturdy!)

You can graph these in quadrants or every inch or anything in between.Draw it right on the plastic. Maybe a fine point or felt tip sharpie. Draw the same graph on drawing paper- this is a great math lesson in making it 2 or 3 times bigger than the original!! draw light pencil marks that will be erased later. You’ll be surprised how accurate you can be in re-creating the picture and how fun this can be!


  • Go to your local lumberyard and buy lightweight Masonite board. This is a plywood that is smooth on one side. Cut it (you can cut it with a box cutter even with just a little time and effort) or have it cut to whatever size you wish but 24″ square is an option. Have your student use masking tape and attach drawing paper to the smooth side.(really tape those whole side. you’ll be happier and less likely to bend your paper on accident) attach your original grid line photo to the board loosely so it doesn’t get lost.  Your student can store this behind the sofa and take it out and draw anytime. Prop it up against the table for an easel in your lap.
  • Keep your original in view at all times!!
  • Buy good drawing paper. If you have a young student that just wants to draw- use copy paper. It is inexpensive, and you do not have to be afraid of mistakes or using too much. Use it and draw. If you have a student that is going to spend some time on a project- buy good drawing paper- at least 60 # paper.   You can buy a nice pad of paper at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. If you intend to buy a lot of drawing paper I recommend Miller Pad and Paper Company.
  • Don’t be afraid to go big! This can be very freeing! Small can feel very accurate and technical and detailed. Let them try it big- not only is freeing some part of your right brain and creating  great excitement there – when it turns out well they will be so excited with their creation. It’s big!
  • Don’t necessarily go with a bright, bright white paper. It can be intimidating. To make a dark stroke on a clean sheet of paper is intimidating. To make it on a bright white paper can be frightening. Sometimes it can take some anxiety out by giving them a darker paper- or something just not bleached to a bright shining white 😉

Line Upon Line by Janice Arduini is another great drawing book.

NOW! These are big ideas that feel like they take a LOT of time and work. They do. But take it a little at a time just like you do everything else. This is not mastered or even attempted in one day!

You can always SIMPLIFY! If you want to take on drawing with your kids, but also know in reality you are not going to do this much…. this is my recommendation: buy a sketchbook. Work on tiny drawing lessons like these I’ve pinned on a journaling Pinterest board.  (I would recommend starting at the bottom of this board and moving up as I have pinned more complicated things as I’ve added to this board -relatively speaking.) Choose anything you or your child likes and just draw. I also have one board specifically for life drawing (humans in motion 😉 ) if you prefer. I hope to add more ideas in the future 😉 tell me what you want!

3 thoughts on “Art! Drawing part 1

  1. Pingback: ART! Drawing part 2 – farmschooliowa

  2. Pingback: Art! Color – farmschooliowa

  3. Pingback: living books curricula – farmschooliowa

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