The past five weeks were taken over by drawing! I was privileged to participate in Make Art That Sells' first 'Illustrating Children's Books' workshop, and loved every bit of it. I cleared out as much of my calendar as possible, and spent a good part of every day drawing.
There were several purposes to this workshop: improving our drawings, especially our characters; learning more about how the children's book industry works; and producing a bunch of great pages for our portfolio. Every week we had a major assignment to complete, although the week began with a mini-assignment which got us focussing on something more manageable to start with. Being part of the class Facebook group was also extremely valuable – sharing our struggles, our advice, and our thoughts on what would improve our artwork before submitting it at the end of each week.
I've learned more than I imagined. Our teachers, Lilla Rogers (an art agent) and Zoe Tucker (a children's book art director) used many different children's books to demonstrate the kinds of things we should be thinking about in our drawings. It's not such a simple matter to illustrate and design a great picture book! We spent most of our time focusing on what makes a great character, and how to make that character come to life. I'm really excited to apply a lot of what I learned about this to the children in my quilts!
Of course, eventually it would be awesome to illustrate a children's book one day. For now I will continue to practice what I've learned in order to build up my illustration portfolio!
Thank you so much for the experience, Lilla, Zoe and Make Art That Sells!
A friend recently asked about inspiring and encouraging children who love to draw. I don't know of any local drawing classes to recommend, but have given some thought to my tips in the subject. Here they are:
1. Real life.
Encourage your child to draw from real life. Yes, sometimes this feels like hard work, but it is SO valuable for developing in drawing. Seeing is half of drawing, and drawing from real life helps us to learn to see. Drawing from memory also has its place, but when we only draw from memory, our drawing can easily stagnate. So bring things into the home to encourage drawing, and also take the kids out on drawing 'excursions' – the zoo, a museum, the botanical gardens, a market, the grandparents backyard – anywhere, really!
2. Have fun.
Having stressed the importance of drawing from real life, it's also good to stimulate your child's imagination, after all, that's what kids do best, isn't it – letting imagination inspire their play and their artwork. Check out books by Shaun Tan for inspiration! I love Carla Sonheim for how she encourages us (adults too) to loosen up and play in our art making. Check out her website for online workshops, and also look up her books, including Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals, and The Art of Silliness.
3. Good supplies.
Have some good art supplies in the house. They don't have to be expensive. Make sure you have some 2B and 4B pencils handy. These are nice and soft to draw with. Also, ONLY buy good quality colouring pencils. I buy either Crayola or Faber Castell. It is so worth spending a little bit more on these. Poor quality colouring pencils stress me out! If your child is old enough to take care of a set of watercolour paints, consider one of these, and a few water colour brushes from an art shop. (That age will vary from child to child). Teach them to never leave the brushes in a cup of water and to be very gentle with the bristles.
Give your child a sketchbook. Make a bit of a deal of it, to show that you look forward to seeing the collection of drawings that they will make in it, and that this will become a book to be treasured. Encourage your child to take it with them when you go out, and to document things that they see and experience, and also the things that they think and dream about, so that the sketchbook becomes a bit of a journal.
5.Join in the fun.
Best tip of all: get a sketchbook for yourself too, and join your child in her creative endeavours. I think you'll surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it – and your child will love sharing that activity with you!
Here's a series of blog posts I wrote a few years ago, about our stay-at-home artists retreat. Maybe you will find some inspiration there too!
Last year my birthday wish was a day at the zoo all by myself. It only took five months, but we finally found a suitable day to make it happen! I spent a lovely long day there on Saturday, arriving when the zoo opened.
As a busy mum, it sure feels weird to go any where without kids. Even more so when all around you there are busy families and parents. But I buried my nose in my sketchbook and didn't pay much attention to anyone around me. So often when we are out, I wish I had a moment to draw, but so often it's just not practical, especially if I am the sole adult responsible for the kids, so this day dedicated to drawing was just wonderful!
I sketched until 2pm and then suddenly I was all sketched out. It was great to be able to immerse myself in my drawing, even if it was also a little bit confronting (they never work out as good on paper as they do in my head). I would love to be able to say that I filled up pages and pages of beautiful effortless drawings, but in reality most pages look more like a bunch of scribbles. Some animals move a lot, so drawing them was more a matter of capturing their pose with a few simple lines; others, like the rhino, pose rather nicely. The lions put on a good show – sitting, standing and walking around, but for some reason proved really difficult to capture.
Hopefully over the next while I will revisit some of these drawings and have another go at capturing them all!
If you spent a day drawing at the zoo, which animal would you draw first?
Although I draw children often, it's not something that comes automatically to me. It's always easier when I make it a regular habit, but even then, it takes effort. I like to try drawing children from my memory and imagination. This works well for a simple standing pose, and with practice, it is getting easier to draw the children in 'made-up' poses as well, but this has only become possible through regularly drawing from photos or from real life.
I love starting out with a red colour pencil to capture the basic shapes and lines. This is super helpful for getting the head/body proportions right, and for making sure the children are the correct size compared to each other. The red pencil is non-obtrusive and tends to recede when the drawing is completed. In this step I look at the direction of the face, the angle of the shoulders and hips, and put some rough circles in place for elbows, hands, knees and feet.