This post is the first of a new series of drawing activities for (slightly older) kids. Don’t worry, we’ll still do the simple How To Draw projects. My little Chuckers (7 years old) has expressed an interest in drawing things more realistically. He’s also getting to that stage where he has just enough focus and motor skills to introduce these concepts.
Drawing something from life means that it’s real, and not from a photograph. This is especially fun to do outside, when the weather begins to get warmer. There are four simple steps to drawing anything from life, blocking, details, shading, and cleanup. Once your kids know these simple steps, they’ll be able to draw anything…heck, it might even inspire you to draw with them.
No more excuses about not being an artist 🙂
Ok first things first, materials.
What materials should you use?
For these activities I would recommend a vine charcoal. If you don’t have charcoal a heavy led pencil will work (anything in the B range). Charcoal is easier to work with than pencil. Without pressing hard it’ll make a fairly dark line, and an eraser can pull up most of the charcoal with little effort. Your kids will also love how messy it is!
On the other hand you can also use newsprint paper. It’s thin and less expensive, so it’s great for practicing on.
This is a must. Your kids will want to make changes, so they’ll need an eraser. Kneaded erasers are my favorite, and in my opinion the best! They can pull up charcoal the best and when the eraser turns black, simply stretch it a few times and it’ll be as good as new. You can also sculpt the eraser into a point or edge and erase small “hard to reach” areas.
I like using printer paper, because it’s readily available. Ideally, you should use heavier and larger paper. It’s easier and more fun to draw big! Heavy paper will hold up to more eraser abuse, plus it looks nicer.
If you’re going to be drawing outside, you’ll want to find a board, book, or something stiff and portable. If you’d like to draw outdoors more often, you could look into buying a drawing board. If you’re going to draw indoors, a simple table will do. Taping the paper in each corner to the portable board will help keep it in place.
Awesome, now that you have all your materials ready lets draw a tree.
This is the most important step to drawing, it’s also the step that most people skip. So, what is blocking? Blocking something in means you’re going to draw large simple shapes that make up a complicated object. Every drawing should begin with a blocking phase.
Take our front yard tree, for example, most people see the details first and say “I could never draw that!” That’s because it seems too detailed and complicated! Even Chuckers said, “That looks hard!” So, let’s start with basic shapes. Go outside, and find small to medium tree. Sit down with your kids, and only draw the trunk and largest branches.
The main objectives in this step:
- Get the overall shape of each block right.
- Get the overall size of each block, in relation to each other, right.
Now that you have the largest parts of the tree blocked in the details should seem much easier. When your kids begin this next step, ask them to look at everything carefully. Challenge them to draw as much as they can see, the little branches, the knots, and bark. It’s early spring for us, so our trees are missing leaves.
With our tree activity, I asked Chuckers to draw the details in this order:
- Largest branches first
- Then medium branches
- Small branches last
- Then bark lines and knots
Here’s a picture of what Chuckers was doing right after the blocking phase. He wanted to work on it more today, so we’ll post his final picture soon.
The shading step will make your tree three dimensional! If shading is new to your kids, refer to our how to shade a cylinder post. This is a great post to reference, since trees are made up of cylinders!
I asked Chuckers to only worry about shading the large and medium branches, including the trunk.
This is an important step, especially when using charcoal (it gets messy)! Cleaning up a drawing means erasing any smudge marks with the kneaded eraser, and going back over smudged lines with the charcoal.
That’s it! I hope after reading this post, drawing something from life seems easy. Even more importantly, I hope teaching your kids how to draw from life is even easier.