Helping kids draw animals

Nov 23, 2010

As a child, I loved Ed Emberley's drawing books.  His easy-to-follow drawings of chipper animals have made millions of kids feel like artists.  Our girls have one of his classic books called Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals.  My 7 year-old daughter was going through the book the other day and drew some characters, including this lion. 

Emberley's approach to drawing is quite simple.  If you know how to draw different lines and basic shapes, then you can learn how to draw all sorts of things.  This is the foundation of any beginning drawing class, really.

Emberley's drawing books are wonderful for young learners (and parents!), but having been an art teacher for many years, I also know that students as young as 5 and 6 years of age can be challenged with more advanced drawing techniques.  Once my daughter finished some sketches from the first book, I handed her Illustrating Nature: How to Paint and Draw Plants and Animals

I found this book last year, and I was so excited to find another great drawing book.  If you have ever shopped for books on drawing, then you are fully aware of the lack of good instructional drawing books out there.  When I taught high school art, I used to have an in-class library of art books for students to check out, and I was always looking for more drawing books.  I wish that I had found this book by Dorothea and Sy Barlowe when I was teaching. The 100+ page book is chock full of drawing tips and information on plant and animal life. 

Here are a couple of pages from the book.  On the left are some illustrations showing animals in action, which is a wonderful resource for beginning and advanced artists.  The page on the right walks through some techniques on how to render fur textures. 

When I handed the book to my daughter, I told her to flip through the pages and find an animal drawing that she would want to replicate.  When using a picture as a drawing resource, many kids make the mistake of choosing a subject that lacks detail.  They figure that the lack of details would make their drawing experience easier, when in actuality, it makes it a lot more difficult.  My daughter came upon a peacock picture, and I told her that that would be perfect to draw- so much texture, contrast, and interesting lines.  About 20 minutes later, this is what she drew. . .

It actually helps when a child isn't as familiar with the subject she is drawing because it forces her to look at the details of the subject.   If the subject had been a cat, for example, the drawing would not have been as detailed. 

Again, I'm always on the lookout for great drawing books, for my kids and myself.  Do you have any favorites?


Lauren Montanaro Norster said...

i like looking at a photo upsidedown, and drawing it that way -- it really makes you pay attention to lines and details!

annekata said...

Love this post! I wasn't familiar with Emberly's drawing book. Thanks for the tip, it seems wonderful. What a great way to teach drawing. My daughter will love it. It's true, once we start drawing symbols we stop drawing what we see and just repeat ourselves. However, your daughter's peacock drawing is amazing. Like mama, like daughter. Talent seems to run in your family. Have a very lovely Thanksgiving.

Kate Pabst said...

As soon as I opened this post I recognized that pudgy pig. We had the Ed Emberly books growing up too. I had completely forgotten about them! Thanks for reminding me; they are such great books!

Charissa said...

So cool..I also love the peacock!

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