I loved to draw when I was little but by the time I was 10 years old, I had stopped drawing all together. As I got older, like most kids, I wanted to draw things more realistically and I remember feeling frustrated by not knowing how. Fortunately, I rediscovered my love of drawing as an adult when I finally learned the skill of contour drawing.
Contour drawing is one of the most useful of all the drawing skills for kids to learn and a big confidence booster because it gives them the ability transfer their observations onto paper. When kids can look at something- whether an actual object or an image- and draw what they see, they’ll have the foundation to tackle any subject matter they want and the confidence to spin off and create their own unique compositions.
Here are some fun exercises you can try with your kids to help them learn to draw the what they see (no pencil required):
TACTILE PRACTICE. Learning to draw realistically is really about learning to observe and this can be a tactile experience, not simply a visual one. Have your child run their finger slowly along the side of the object they wish to draw. Talk about the the change of direction as they follow the contour of the object. “Now you are curving, feel how it bends a little?”
AIR PRACTICE. Ask your child to cover one eye with the palm of their hand and with their other hand, trace the object in the air with their finger as they closely observe it from about a foot away. Once again, talk about the motions, so each little change of direction is copied with their finger in the air. This activity encourages them to look at the edge of the object to learn to see the actual contour line that makes up the overall shape.
NAME THE LINE PRACTICE. In the Thrive Beginner Program, kids learn how to break down what they see into the Three Lines for Drawing. These lines: Straight, Curved and Organic, make up the contour or edge of objects. Practice identifying these lines by pointing to different objects around your house or out on a walk and ask your child to say the kind of line that they see. For example, the edge of a leaf might curve while the vein is a straight line.
Asking kids questions that encourage them to study the edges and contours of objects builds their observational skills and prepares them to draw what they see. Some types of questions might be: “Do you see how that straight line begins to bend at the top? “How do the lengths compare?” “Isn’t this an interesting line? Can you see how it wiggles?” Ask your child to look for shadows and compare light and dark color too, as often kids as young as 5 years old will begin to grasp these concepts.
When kids develop observational skills and learn to integrate what they see with their imagination, they’ll have the tools to create whatever they set their mind to.