Here’s a project my 10-year-old did today. She drew a picture with pencil:
Then she scanned it into photoshop and punched up the contrast, so the lines blackened a bit.
Then she created a second layer on top of the first layer. She changed the second layer properties to “multiply”, to prevent the lines on her first layer from being covered by the second layer.
Then she used the paintbrush to color the second layer. I told her to only use colors above an imaginary line in the color picker, represented above by the green line–to prevent her colors from getting too dark and drowning out her beautiful outlines. The goal was to repeat colors in groups of three, creating triangles of color. You can see the red triangle below:
See how many triangles of color you can find in her picture. See how many repeated colors you can find in her picture. See how many colors that are close, but slightly varied you can find in her picture.
Now go try it yourself!
In a previous post, I outlined a simple art lesson/project for younger kids. Here’s one for kids that are a little bit older. I did this exercise for the first time when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. Recently, my ten-year-old daughter was begging me to teach her how to draw, so I decided to try this exercise out on her:
Start with a triangle (fig. a). Warp it in space (fig. b) so that two sides are convex and one is concave. It need not be symmetrical. Draw quickly, using the motion of your arm to create sweeping shapes. Don’t try to draw them slowly with the motion of your hands and fingers–this will result in wavy and crumpled shapes.
Stack four of these elegant shapes on top of each other, so that in one spot, all four shapes overlap. Things to avoid: 1. Triangles that are tight and small (eye traps). 2. Three lines intersecting–(also an eye trap). 3. Corners overlapping lines–(yet another eye trap). It’s a puzzle in and of itself to arrange these shapes according to these rules. If it’s done right, it will look something like fig. c. If it’s done wrong, it may look something like fig. d, where you can see lots of overlapping corners and intersecting lines. I count five eye traps in fig. d. (Disclaimer: eye traps are not necessarily bad. The artist just needs to be aware of them to use them properly. We are trying to avoid them in this exercise, but rules are made to be broken, right? Especially in art.)
Now, let the shading begin! You will probably want to use kneadable eraser and three pencils, a hard pencil (2H), a medium pencil (HB) and a soft pencil (3B), all of which you can buy at your local art or craft store. Start by drawing lightly with the hard pencil, and gradually move to the soft pencil for dark areas. Where the four shapes overlap should be darkest–as black as you can get toward the edges. Where three shapes overlap should be a little lighter. Where two shapes overlap should be lighter still. And where the single shape has no overlap should be the lightest. Within each shaded area, the outer edges of the shape should be darker than the inner edges. There should be a beautifully even transition from light to dark. Use your eraser to lift out splotches of dark, and use sharp pencils to get rid of any lines.
My daughter worked hard and did a good job with this exercise, so I let her be finished with it. If she were a bit older, I would want her to get rid of any directional lines, make her edges sharp and uniform, and make the sweep of her shapes as continuous and smooth as possible. I’d like her shading to be a little more even and precise. But really, I’m ecstatic that my ten year old was able to do what you see here.
So there you have it! Things that should be learned from this exercise:
1. How to draw beautifully sweeping shapes.
2. How to organize shapes without creating eye traps.
3. How to shade with a full range of lightest lights to darkest darks.
4. How to create definition among shapes–light sides against darker edges.
5. Patience. It’s a hard exercise to finish well, and it makes young artists realize how much work goes into a finished work of art.
Let me know if you have questions about this, and if you decide to do this exercise, send me an image and I’ll post it below.
Last week, I was asked to be a guest artist for the 3rd graders at my son’s elementary school. I’ve done a lot of school visits over the years. Usually I read my children’s books and talk to the students about writing and illustrating, but this time I wanted to do something different: I wanted the students to actively help me illustrate a picture book.
This video shows the development of one of the illustrations from beginning to end:
We had SO MUCH FUN! We had thirty minutes of crazy chaos with scores of brushes moving and black acrylic paint moving across a dozen panels. Oh, it made me want to be a third grader!
Come back for more posts on this project. I need to show you the great fonts these students created for the book. I need to show you more transformations of these great illustrations, and I want to tell you what this book is about. Come back soon!
Have you ever seen a monster like this hanging around town? This is the creation of brilliant illustrator Will Strong.
As soon as I caught wind that Will had created this monster (Moe is the monster’s name) and left him out on the lonely streets of Provo, I jumped in my car. It took me twenty minutes of driving around downtown before I finally found Moe’s hangout. There was a note attached to Moe’s back:
“…my name is Will Strong and I have created this monster for you, the person who found it. I would love for you to take it home. If you do take this monster home then please take a picture of the monster in it’s new surroundings and email it to me. Then I’d love to post the photo on my art blog. Enjoy your new friend…”
Since my son Bryan is Will Strong’s biggest fan, Moe’s new home will be in Bryan’s room. Will, Bryan says thanks for his new friend Moe!
Word of advice–add Will Strong as a facebook friend or follow his blog and see if he puts another monster out on the streets. I hope it becomes a regular occurrence. You might be the lucky owner of an original piece of kids’ art.
PS – Word has it Will is collaborating on a new picture book with writing legend Rick Walton.
I’m often asked if I teach art to children and what I recommend for children with an artistic bent.
One of my mentors believed elementary school aged children should be left to their own devices–they should be encouraged to do their own thing and their naivete’ should not be spoiled by structured lessons. I’m inclined to agree with him–to a point. That point is, in my opinion, when children leave their naivete’ of their own accord and enter an awkward stage–where they are in between making child-like images and don’t have the skill to make the refined images they want to make.
As far as the younger children are concerned, my main grievance is they are often only given crayons to draw with and watercolors to paint with on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of printer paper. There’s nothing wrong with crayons or watercolors, as long as children are also encouraged to try new things and experiment with new media. Most professional artists do not make a living by making crayon drawings or watercolor paintings. True, oil paint is a bit dangerous for youngsters, and acrylics can be messy.
Still, this photo illustrates one of my favorite exercises for young people. Here’s how it works. I ask my daughter to choose ONE COLOR. She chooses red. I then give her two more colors–the first is white, and the second is the neutral dark of the opposite temperature–in this case black. Red is warm, black is cool. If she had chosen blue, I would have given her brown to go with it. Make sense? So, equipped with red, white, and black acrylic paint, a large brush, a large panel, a bowl of water, and messy clothes, I tell her to fill the whole panel–to cover all the white space.
The results are, in my opinion, as awesome as a Jackson Pollock or a Mark Rothko painting. We’ll, more awesome, because it’s your kid, right?:) Here are a couple more variations of this exercise by two of my other children.
So that’s the exercise. Let me know if you have questions about doing this with your children. And of course use common sense to keep your child healthy while using any sort of artistic medium.
I’m excited that Bryan’s prints have started to sell! Hopefully we’ll be posting a lot more options for purchase in the near future! This one is called Swingset and is available in four colors.
A big round of applause for Jed Henry. Jed is a member of my critique group, the infamous BROTIQUE. Earlier this year, he illustrated a book for Mike Huckabee called Can’t Wait Til Christmas. Since then, he has sold two of his children’s books to major publishers, and he’s got a long list of winning ideas just waiting to be picked up. See what he’s working on now at his blog. Here’s a mock up for the cover of one of his new ideas:
Also, check out Wolf Boy Sleeps Over. Hilarious! Congratulations Jed!