Kids know that drawing is more about capturing movement and feeling than it is about getting the nose right. But there comes a time for some when a perfect nose begins to matter. Or at least, when the proper shape of a frog begins to matter.
The Magic Pear, by Morgan J. Sweeney, was first published in 1887, and uses the shape of a pear to create the likeness of a frog, a rabbit, a cat, and other critters. “My little dears,” it begins, “this pear is a Magic Pear. It has an elephant in it.” This how-to reprint appeared in 1977, with 12 different possible drawings made out of a fruit, and ends with drawing a man. (With a reader’s imagination, a woman’s not far behind.)
From there, try 1-2-3 Draw People: A Step By Step Guide, by Freddie Levin (2007). Its tips begin with more shapes — squares, rectangles, ovals — all of them useful when drawing a kid playing soccer or dancing ballet. A body or a face is made up of many smaller parts, all of them coming together to create the whole. The author explains proportion and how to plan a picture so that it’s perfect. This is much harder than when using just pears, and will take more time to get right. But it’s a lot of fun to work it all out and draw you, your family or your friends.
Freddie Levin uses the same ideas in another book, 1-2-3 Draw Mythical Creatures (2003). “This book is designed to help the young artist break down complicated images into simple shapes and see the relationship between the shapes. To encourage young children with little confidence or children with poorly developed motor control, cut circles, eggs and ovals out of tag board. Have the child move these basic shapes into position on drawing paper and trace around the shapes, to get the first step of each drawing.”
Plus there’s the sphinx, pixies, trolls and dragons. Harry Potter fans will love the three-headed dog and the hippogriff, all borrowed from ancient mythology.
Once kids have the basics down, they can try out other projects. How about creating a flipbook? Flipbook Animation And Other Ways To Make Cartoons Move, by Patrick Jenkins (1991) shows the way.
Old-style cartoons were made by hand, with dozens of pictures filmed one after another to create one minute’s worth of moving picture. It takes time and planning to do, but you can create a flipbook using the same idea.
Does that seem too hard? It’s not. Jenkins shows how to make a fish swim. Draw little fish lips at the far left of a piece of paper. Then draw a little more of the fish on each sheet, and presto! Soon you can collect all the pictures, flip them, and watch a fish zooming about.
Jenkins gives great instructions and makes the complex easy. He shows how to connect the paper, how to organize each drawing, and even how to make the fish do a loop-the-loop.
There’s all kinds of steadily harder projects here, from a fly buzzing about your nose to a rocketship landing. And because Jenkins is a movie lover, so there’s also cool info on how films used to be put together, and even how to create old movie devices with stiff paper, pencils and light bulbs. It’s a lot of fun.
So far, these books have been stuck on pencils (and erasers!).
The Children’s Book of Painting, by Lothar Kampmann (1972) features two children who play with paint and crayons and will give your children lots of ideas on an otherwise wet afternoon. Splotches can become trees and fireworks, thanks to blowing at paint with a straw. Or remember painting one side of a paper and folding it over? Or how about stencils?
Remember to put old newspapers down… painting is fun, and kids should be encouraged to be a little messy (Good Reads repeats: a little!). Older kids can use these same techniques to create ever more sophisticated artworks.
Some kids want to create cartoon strips and comics. These next books are for them!
Begin with How to Draw Cartoons and Caricatures, written by Judy Tatchell (1987). “Cartoons look quick and easy to draw,” begins this manual. “You may have found that they are not as easy as they look, though. This book is full of simple ways to do good cartoons.”
There’s a quick review of some of the techniques discussed in previous books in this column, as well as ideas on how to exaggerate eyes or mouth to create a true caricature. Plus templates for happy, sad, mad and funny expressions. And don’t forget that your comic strip will need narrative, maybe a joke, perhaps scenery and sound effects! This book will help you plan it all out, in addition to helping with drawing technique.
Finally, Scott McCloud has written and drawn Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1994). It’s an inventive 215-page work of philosophy, psychology and art history for serious students of what the French call le neuvieme art, and what the great Will Eisner, creator of the masked adventurer who starred in the famed Sprit series of the 1940s, called sequential art.
The history of comics can be traced in the Americas to pre-Columbian times, with ancient picture manuscripts. Over in Europe, the Bayeux Tapestry, which tells of the 1066 Norman Conquest, is a comic — a group of sequential images telling a story.
There are even sections on conveying sound in print, and on how realism and colour impacts the brain. Understanding Comics is for those who take the form seriously and want to read up on art theory, and more — in pictures and words.
All these books can be found in non-fiction with a green dot, and are numbered from 709 to 743 (the books are filed by number under the decimal system founded by librarian and educator Melvil Dewey in 1876; he divided books up into subjects so they’d be easy to find, but if you’re having trouble, just ask).
– Eleanor Brown, May 20, 2011