This isn’t (quite) a back-to-school post. But it is about learning.
As I’ve made clear previously, I have a soft spot for children’s books. From the classics to the quirky, the conventional to the possibly unacceptable, I treasure them all. One of my favorite sub-genres in children’s books is the “How To” category, bringing us our primary title for this post, What to Draw and How to Draw It by Edwin Lutz.
The idea behind the book is that anything you would like to draw can be broken down into simple forms. This is the premise of every drawing lesson I ever took, so it seemed reasonable to me.
Lutz begins with buildings, illustrating steps for a pagoda, lighthouse, and castle. The steps are straightforward: a few simple lines, carefully marked, have detail added gradually to create effective renderings. A child need only use her own knowledge and imagination to fill in the final details. Of course, I’m not sure what reference points a child might have for the details of these buildings…
Next, he moves to animals. Here there starts to be some inconsistency in the level of instructional detail. The page of “Various Birds” clearly uses simple shapes, multiple steps, and fills in detail to make convincing, if simplified, examples. The pencil strokes are easy to follow, and it’s clear the artist could add as much detail as desired. While he later gives instruction on specific birds such as parrots, storks, and hummingbirds, this page covers various poses a generic small bird might take.
And then we come to “Curious Fishes”:
Not quite so big on the intermediate steps here.
The book also has sections on faces (both cartoon and realistic), figures and clothing (the costuming being dated to 1913), and plenty of other animals.
Helpful for any age, it’s primarily designed for elementary school aged kids.
If you would like to chek it out for yourself, What to Draw and How to Draw It is available FREE via The Internet Archive, courtesy of the New York Public Library. There are, in fact, a number of FREE books available if you’ve got an urge to learn to draw. They cover a range of styles, and a range of abilities:
Fun With a Pencil by Andrew Loomis is mostly about drawing funny faces and characters. It’s designed for kids who are a bit older, probably in the middle-school range.
The not quite appropriately named Drawing For Beginners by Dorothy Furniss is really designed for a much more mature art student, despite its claims otherwise. It reads more like a well illustrated novel than an instruction book; even the preliminary sketches look like finished products. If you’ve already got an artistic eye, this could certainly help you refine it, but I wouldn’t offer it to Kindergarteners.
Young Artists Draw Animals by Christopher Hart is a much more recent book, published in 2012 . I don’t know if it suffered an issue when uploading, but the formatting is blocky and awkward and there is little in the way of instruction. It’s a good example of a bad instruction book.
You may find Teacher’s Manual for Freehand Drawing in Primary Schools by Walter Smith to be useful if you have a budding artist and want some ideas on how to break down lessons. Published in 1875 in Boston, the book covers basic symmetry, straight and curved lines, and works its way into botanical forms – from stylized decorative motifs to realistic representations
There are loads of online resources for learning to draw, but I seek out the quirky. So here I present to you Learn to Draw Butts with Just Five Simple Lines, courtesy of Open Culture. The video is presented by Karl Gude, former Director of Information Graphics at Newsweek. It’s goofy and fun and any kid (or grownup!) can draw a butt with just a little practice. Also on the page is his slightly more involved tutorial on drawing an eye.
With some help from my sister (and YouTube), I was able to find video of The Nature World of Captain Bob. He was local to Boston (his accent proves it), and taught a drawing program on Saturday morning TV. Here is a video of him teaching us how to draw a cat:
What do you like to draw?