On teaching art to children

I am discussing ideas from Mona Brookes’s inestimable book “Drawing with Children.”  The first part of the discussion can be found HERE.

Brookes has this wonderful advice for art teachers that ought to be etched on the lintel of the door to the art classroom; in the section entitled “How to use this book,” she gives this sage advice:  “If you are going to be teaching children, don’t introduce them to the lessons until you have dealt with the majority of your own drawing blocks and confusions.”

How much of most people’s reluctance to draw stems from the discouragement they learned at school from teachers who projected their own discouragement outwards?  Lots of kids enter the building with a love for drawing only to leave with the dejected feeling of “can’t.”

Musings on confidence, 4

I am discussing ideas from Mona Brookes’s inestimable book “Drawing with Children.”  The first part of the discussion can be found HERE.

Skipping ahead in regard to Mona Brookes’s statements meant to help her readers gauge their confidence, I move along to consider this one:  “People who can’t draw realistically, with accurate shading and correct proportion, aren’t real artists.”    In the context of her book, Mona Brookes offers this statement as an example of false standards that discourage beginners.  The implication is that only realism counts as “art.”

In my youth the flip-side of this was more the rule.  I began learning to draw naturalistically from adolescence, but when I went to college I found that among the professors it was axiomatic that “real art” wasn’t realistic.  Drawings that depicted things, regardless of the quality of the drawing, were uniformly dismissed as “illustration,” a term that was used unequivocably as a term of derision.

Happily for me, I was well rooted in my own preferences.  My rule was to do what I liked.  This wasn’t a stylistic rule.  It was simply my habit.  I was a spoiled only child.  What is the point of drawing if you are only drawing according to the dictates of everybody else?  Most artists could stand to learn a thing or two from us spoiled only children.

Even if the professors had been right, and it was manifestly clear that they were not, what would have been the point in my doing their ideas of “modern art” if I didn’t like it?  Who put them in charge, anyway?   Why am I doing something if it has no meaning for me?  One professor went so far as to say we had permission to do something-or-other because they are doing it in New York.

Well, let them do what they like in New York.  I live in Maryland.  Pshaw!

Ode to a ball point pen

Thou still unequaled tool of penmanship,

Thou practical pen of school room and cursive theme-writing,

Cerulean line-maker, who canst thus express,

A surreptitious note more secretly than thy marks?

What word-processed typography compares with this spare technology

For Scribbles or Grocery lists, or of both,

In Walmart or the wild hallways of Middle School?


What blue paradise is this?  What sheeny marks?

What ease of use? What bargain when on sale in pack of ten?

What smeary linearity?  What wild ecstacy?

I really like my ball point pen A LOT!  My apologies to John Keats for the pilfering of his great verse!

Musings on confidence, 3

I am discussing ideas from Mona Brookes’s inestimable book “Drawing with Children.”  The first part of the discussion can be found HERE.

Her third sentence for gauging one’s confidence is the easiest to treat.  It is this: “Drawing is simply for pleasure and has no practical use.”

Before we counter by innumerating all the purely practical or not-so-artistic uses for drawing, let’s contemplate the implications of what’s being implied about pleasure by condensing the sentence this way: “Pleasure has no practical use.”

Well, only if you plan to spend your life being miserable.

Should life be drudgery?  Raise your hand if you think so ….  I’m not seeing many hands raised.  You mean you guys want to have fun??  Hey, me too!

Drawing isn’t always pleasurable, but whenever it is I say “Yea!”  So here’s to pleasure.  Let’s party.  Start drawing.