Thursday, 21 September 2017

Why kids aren't allowed to draw on their imagination, and why this is putting tons of kids off art in school - a ReadItTorial

Without a doubt, one of the big lures for many kids when it comes to books is seeing brilliant cover or internal illustrations that let their imaginations fly to other worlds, or introduce them to amazing characters they could never have dreamed up themselves.

We've written many times in these ReadItTorials about the worth of illustrators in helping to convey stories effectively but all those illustrators have one thing in common - they use their amazing imaginations to produce those believable characters and worlds.

Most artists (including myself) will readily admit to using references, researching image libraries and sometimes to using models or maquettes to get a particular pose or illustration 'just right' but many just seem to have the knack of hacking into their own natural born talent with amazing works that look real enough to leap off the page and actually 'exist'.

A lot of that comes from things they may have learned from school, with a good art tutor who engages with the subject enough to want to teach as many different aspects of illustration, from the important stuff like perspective, observation and anatomy through to colour, arrangement and form.

What we seem to find - not just in school but beyond that into further education too is that folk who love to draw often say they're not allowed to or are frowned upon for drawing from imagination.

Quite often art lessons still seem to rely heavily on those dreadful old standards of sticking a bunch of objects on the work table, then getting kids to draw and paint them in order to understand the shapes, the way to depict objects with light and shade, and to get proportions and scale just right.

Yes - those are important skills and there's nothing wrong with them - but as we've found with reading, there's a huge gulf between drawing and painting to gather the requisite skills for illustration, and drawing for the sheer pleasure of just coming up with something from your vivid imagination.

Learn how to draw just about everything with Lorenzo Etherington, half of the incredibly talented Etherington Brothers

I guess what we're talking about here is more of a mix of disciplines when it comes to teaching drawing, painting and illustration to kids. For example, not just relying on the hoary old standards that have been in place for years, but perhaps engaging kids with more up-to-date artists, methods and means of producing stunning work. Does anyone know of any school that, for example, bothers to touch digital art at all, other than perhaps slinging a couple of photos into a package and messing around with them for posters etc?

Regular blog visitors will know that we're huge fans of The Etherington Brothers, and really love Lorenzo Etherington's art.

Lorenzo's the sort of guy you'd love as an art teacher, with an obvious passion for his work and sharing brilliant tutorials that go beyond the usual "Start here, then draw this, then draw this and VOILA!" approach

Lorenzo's tutorial series "How to Think when you Draw" which has been put together both for the Etheringon Brothers blog and for The Phoenix comic is exactly the right balance of imagination vs real-world art skills. It's the perfect mix to encourage kids to think before they draw, think while they're drawing, and think about how they can take the tips and tricks learned into their own works of art.

Angry faces! (C) Lorenzo Etherington
I really like the approach of letting kids loose on drawing from their imagination, but also encouraging them to think about the component parts of their drawings, those bendy 'rules' and also a little bit about the mechanics of the very thing they're trying to draw.

It's fair to say that Lorenzo does make it look easy (and believe me, it really isn't!) but with practice and determination, you can start to build up a whole new internal symbol set - and way of thinking about your drawing - that will stand you in good stead when you start to build up your own portfolio.

For kids, I think it's just as important to encourage and develop a love of doodling and drawing for pleasure as it is to develop a love of reading for pleasure. We've always, always made sure there are art materials around at home for Charlotte to use - and that there's always somewhere in our dwindling spare time set aside for drawing, painting, sketching and doodling together (and it's been wonderful to go out to museums and other places and draw alongside my daughter, as bonding experiences go, it really doth rock!)

It has worked wonders for art lessons at school too, as it means she actively engages with the subject, enjoys it - and also appreciates the way the lessons are taught (even though she shares my absolute hatred of drawing still life or landscapes - and is also pretty bloody minded when it comes to advice from her teacher that she doesn't agree with!)

But there's still loads and loads of room in schools to let kids just go crazy and see what they can dig out of their own internal symbol sets and their own imaginations - if for no better reason than to let them just chill out, take the brakes off and just have some fun.