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Drawing with Kids Using the Monart Method :: Lesson 1 – Birds

by Jean Van't Hul
March 21, 2013

Drawing with Kids using the Monart Method - Lesson 1 Birds

My post on Drawing with Kids using the Monart method really seemed to strike a chord. It has been one of my more popular posts lately, both in terms of comments and readership.

The kids and I have continued with the Monart method outlined in Mona Brookes’ book, Drawing with Children, with several small lessons and drawing sessions each week. Sometimes we sit down and do a formal lesson (actually just part of an official lesson since they are rather long—we’re making each stretch out over a week or two) and sometimes we just have a super informal joint drawing session (although elements from the more formal lessons have a way of sneaking in…).

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 16

Between the two, there is definitely more of an emphasis on drawing in our house!

Maia and I are now well into lesson 2, but I’m going to backtrack in this post and share the rest of lesson 1 with you as well as answer some of your questions.

I know that some of you are following along with your own kids, and that many of you purchased copies of Drawing with Children since my last post! My plan is to share our experience with the book and provide the tools and inspiration for you to help your kids learn specific drawing skills, if you are interested.

Also, while I’ve decided to start with Mona Brooks’ book, I will incorporate other ideas, methods, exercises, and books throughout.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 06

I want to address one concern that some of you have regarding creativity with the Monart Method.

Some parents are concerned that by teaching specific skills and especially using some of the copying techniques that Mona Brooks suggests, that their children’s creativity will be stunted. I have to admit that this was a concern of mine for a while, as well.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 04

However, after reading and thinking, this is what has swayed me to Mona Brookes’ ideas on drawing with kids:

  1. Mona asserts in her book that giving children the tools to draw accurately actually gives children the confidence and skills to portray what they see and to share their creative ideas with the world.
  2. Kids who have these drawing skills are more likely to continue to draw and to do art beyond age 8 (the age that many kids stop drawing because of lack of skills, confidence, and the de-emphasis in schools on art in the later grades).
  3. It is completely normal for kids to use their accurate drawing skills in one situation yet use symbols and stick figures for quick and creative drawing play. Kids know the difference and one doesn’t interfere with the other.

Drawing with Kids - Shapes Exercise

Each lesson is begun with a warm up exercise that involves drawing the 5 shapes and lines (dots, circles, straight lines, curved lines, and angles) in various combinations and patterns.

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And, unlike the first skills level test that involved copying the shape combos exactly, these are very free form and everyone’s version is completely unique and creative!

The warm up drawing exercises go something like this:

  • Choose two fine-tipped markers and draw three straight lines on the paper, in any direction, starting and stopping at the edge of the page.
  • Choose three broad-tipped markers and draw five dots of any size, with at least two of the dots intersecting lines.
  • Choose one broad-tipped marker and draw an angle line starting and ending at the edge of the paper.
  • Choose a fine-tipped marker and fill in at least two of the empty spaces with a pattern of straight lines.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 03

Maia and I have been LOVING this part! As has her friend Stella, who joined us for one of the exercises. And even Daphne has really gotten into it.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 23

Once we do a warm up exercise, we segue into one of the drawing lessons. This first one was a simple bird.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 20

Now, the drawing lessons are very step-by-step, which can feel wonderful to someone who doesn’t feel like they have a clue how to draw, or can possibly feel a little stifling to someone who is experienced at drawing and confident in their skills.

I think it’s important to remember the main point of Drawing with Children here, which is to learn:

  1. Ways to connect specific shapes and lines into a recognizable figure.
  2. Show a child how to draw something, such as a bird, that they can then replicate so that they “own” that drawing in a way and have the confidence to recreate it.
  3. Provide the basic steps to draw something that can be built off of and provide the basis for variation.
  4. As children learn the step-by-step instructions for drawing a few different specific things, I think they’ll start owning the whole process and that the drawing skills for these specific items will start to spill over into other items and areas until they are using those skills to draw anything they like, any way they like.

Drawing with Kids Maias Bird Drawing

Maia, who has plenty of self-confidence (usually) and a 7-year-old’s sense of humor, scratched out her first “by the book” bird and decided to create a silly bird with a very long beak, tiny body, a cherry on top,  singing “ainty dainty doodle,” and eating a banana, all the while still following the drawing instructions as written.

Maias Bird Drawing

I don’t think I need to worry about her feeling stifled by drawing instructions any time soon.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 31

My own bird drawing seems somewhat tame in comparison. 🙂

How about you? Have you tried any of the drawing exercises in Drawing with Children (or another drawing book)? What do you think?

Follow along on the Drawing with Kids series:

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