Thursday, February 21, 2008

Drawing Workshop for Munchkins

Alexander Adams, John R. Gray III and I are met by three bright-eyed munchkins under the age of six.  Where to start?  Why, with the things that our parents taught us and we taught ourselves when the whole drawing thing was just for fun.  Well, it's still just for fun, but now I have to talk to myself and to my drawing to keep myself loose or I'll hold my breath in order to try to force it to come out the way I want.  I'm pretty sure holding my breath doesn't help, but a lot of people do it.  Weird.

Anyway, Alex drew a poodle (fabulous, btw) and that got us launched into ladybugs.  I talked about bug anatomy, using an ant as an illustration, which helped us with butterflies.  The boys, though, wanted to draw spiders.  So John did a spider on the white board while we roamed and helped.  Alex got into the pirate theme and drew a scary skull-bodied spider with bone legs, which made me want to draw a skull-headed spider with a bandana.  Alex helpfully drew a can of Raid behind it, since it looked like it was running and besides, it was too creepy to live.  

More kids came in, just in time for butterflies.  I got to return to bug anatomy, but the boys had lost interest because one of the new comers had hot wheels.  It was classic.  Three girls diligently working on art projects while the boys vroomed on the chairs in a corner.  

One of the startling things about a child's drawing is the apparent lack of awareness (or perhaps just a lack of interest, or both) in proportion.  Spiders often have huge bodies and short, stubby legs.  The other thing is the persistence of anthropomorphosis onto very alien things, maybe to make them seem friendly.  Though I drew an accurate ladybug on the board, which I should add is much easier than what the kids translated that to, they drew faces complete with two eyes, a nose and a mouth onto their ladybugs.  Direct help doesn't change anything, either.  I didn't want to be the spoilsport bossy woman so I just asked things like 'what about if you made the legs longer?  It's okay if they disappear off the page,' the response was simply to draw a spider that filled the whole page with even smaller legs.  To which the correct response is always, 'that's great!'  And the faces on the creatures we drew were fun.  

I don't miss the days of innocent scribblings, though.  It was more mimicry of myself than what I experience as art today, a kind of self-motivated practice that I have little explanation for except that I found the repetition comforting.  It was great for my eye/hand/brain connections, and I recommend that people who think that they can't draw choose a single subject and do as a child does--repeat it over and over and over every day, every chance you get.  Trace it, doodle it, read about it, modify what you don't like, draw it, cartoon it, turn it into a single-line logo and put it on the back of every business card you hand out, make it yours.  There's nothing lost and everything to be gained by becoming expert at horses.  Er, I mean, one subject.  (I also drew cats and owls, enough to wallpaper the whole apartment with fresh every year.)  It's creative in the strictest sense--creating something from nothing--but it's really just a way to hone your drawing skills so that you can learn to draw things outside your comfort zone based on the experience of drawing your one thing.

The kids got to draw a treasure map after our class, which looked like a lot more fun, honestly, or at least I guessed it would be for them.  Drawing the unfamiliar is work, even if that work has been simplified for you.  Drawing a meandering line and using stickers--now that's what I call playing.  I hope they got a lot out of the drawing, though.  It wouldn't surprise me if spiders, ladybugs, praying mantids and poodles started appearing on homework over the next several weeks.  Or months.  Or years and years and years--pardon me, I think I should go draw a horse.

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