Good morning! It has been crazier than ever around here lately, but I have finally pushed myself to start carving out some more time for writing and creating. So hopefully you’ll be hearing from me a lot more regularly again. You can also expect some upcoming posts about time management for working, creative parents. Being a working parent of any kind is busy and stressful at times, but when you also have to find time for your art (which easily equates to another full-time job) it is not easy! But today I’m going to share with you a fun drawing exercise you can do with your kids. It’s great for all ages and can be adjusted to suit different skill levels and interests. I love doing this one with my kids because it teaches them some essential drawing skills while also giving my artist’s eye a little exercise too. And those little exercises can sometimes be the hardest things to make time for!
Most artists can tell you the biggest battle in drawing or artistically rendering anything is learning to see. We build drawing up to be this incredibly difficult thing in our minds that only those with some kind of special talent can do. But really it is a skill like anything else that can be learned – if you’re willing to be patient and learn. At any age, the patience and willingness to learn is the hardest thing for people to catch on to. I have seen seven-year-olds and middle aged adults alike both sit frustrated in front of a drawing pad wondering why they can’t pick up a pencil and just do it. You have to give yourself time and room to learn, and be willing to make lots of mistakes and silly looking drawings along the way. This exercise is a great way to train your eye to see, but it won’t always look like a beautiful perfect drawing in the end. So keep in mind, and stress to your kids if they’re doing it too, that this is called an exercise for a reason. It’s about the process, not the end result.
When we look at an image or subject we want to draw, an untrained eye can easily get overwhelmed by focusing on all of the wrong things. But the truth is all things are just made up of different combinations of shapes and lines. That’s all. Just shapes and lines. And we can all draw shapes and lines, right? This exercise will help get you out of the habit of looking at the picture as a whole, and to instead tackle it one little bit at a time, really looking at all of the shapes, lines, and how far a part they all are from one another.
To start, you’ll need the following materials:
- your favorite drawing paper and utensils
- access to a computer, scanner, and printer
- a ruler (optional)
The first thing you need to do is decide what you’d like to draw. You can choose anything you want, but once you do it a few times you’ll get the idea of what kinds of images work better than others for this exercise. This works especially well if you don’t know what the end image is going to be, so if this is more for yourself than the kids in your life then I recommend asking someone else to prepare it for you. You can follow these steps to make your own, but you can also download the one you’ll see in my photos at the end of this post!
For this one I chose our rescue cat, Maeby, and my favorite flowers- poppies! Once you know what you want to draw, you can print out a picture and trace it or try it freehand. If tracing, you can tape a photo with your blank paper on top to a window during daylight and it works as a light table! You can experiment with incorporating shading into this exercise later, but for now just stick to the lines. Think coloring pages. If it’s only for personal use, you can also just search the internet for any kind of image you want. But again, find something that is just black and white lines.
Once you’ve drawn your image, scan it into your computer. There are probably better ways to go about the following steps, but this is the best way I know how to do this on my current computer. Open Word or something similar and start a new document. I usually reduce my margins to zero to make things easier. Then insert your scanned drawing and make it big enough to fill the whole page. Format it to sit behind the text.
Now you’ll want to make a table. For an image that is around 8 x 10″, I recommend a table with 4 columns and 5 rows. You end up with roughly 2 x 2 inch squares this way. Resize your table to fit right over your image.
Now you’ll want to number each square.
Now insert a blank page and copy and paste everything you just did on to the new page. But then you can delete the image so all that is left is the table and numbers.
Now the computer part is done! Just print out however many copies you need and grab your scissors. Take the paper that has the image printed on it and cut the squares out along the lines.
Set these aside in a pile in a random order and you’re ready to go!
If you want to be able to have a finished drawing without lines and numbers at the end, you can use a ruler to trace or measure out a copy of the table/graph in pencil. Don’t forget to copy the numbers too! Just keep in mind we don’t want to focus too much on the finished product. It may not end up perfect, and this is about the process and giving your artist’s eye a workout.
This is when to bring the kiddos in to start, or when you will start if you’ve had someone else prepare this for you. As I said before, it works especially well if you don’t know what the finished image is. So resist the urge to tell your kids. They’ll have a lot of fun trying to guess as they go, but just tell them it’s a surprise!
In random order, draw squares from the pile and copy them into the square with the corresponding number. It’s going to look like a bunch of random lines, and that’s exactly what you want! Remind yourself and/or your kids to not worry about what you’re drawing. Just focus on the lines and shapes. Particularly pay attention to how far a part things are from each other and copying things so they are the same size as in the original square. The more accurately spaced and sized things are, the better your final image will be! Try not to look at the surrounding squares as you go. Only pay attention to the one you’re working on. If it helps, you can cut a square (the same size as one of the squares from your pile) out of a piece of cardstock or other thick paper. Then just place the opening over whatever square you’re currently working on to keep yourself from worrying about all of the other squares around it.
Just take it square by square…..one little bit at a time.
Voila! Once you’ve copied all the squares you’re all done! If you copied your table in pencil, now you can go back and erase those lines.
How did you do? All of your lines may not line up, and that’s okay! I made this one myself and I’ve been drawing for a very long time, and you’ll notice a few places even my lines don’t line up perfectly. The important thing is you have taken some time to train your brain how to focus on a subject one little bit at a time: line by line, and shape by shape. If you’re a beginner at drawing, you can surprise yourself by what you can draw this way. You can tackle really complex, intimidating images that would likely give you a harder time if you tried them freehand. You can even try drawing the image again without the table to see how much more challenging it can be!
You can make this game again and again with any subject you’d like. I’ve made them for all ages featuring every animal you can think of and even some fun characters – like Piglet, most recently. If you’d like to download the one you see in my photos, you can do so by clicking here: Drawing Game by Mai Hamric
As I mentioned before, my example features our rescue cat, Maeby. You can learn more about Maeby by visiting this older post about her. My children’s book about her will be coming out very soon! I will announce a release date within the next couple of weeks! So hopefully you can get excited about that with me as you complete this exercise and learn some essential drawing skills along the way.
I hope you enjoy this exercise! Please let me know what you thought if you try it! I’d love to see your finished products or hear about your experience. I’d also love to see your own versions that you make!
Keep that artist’s eye sharp and happy Tuesday! ~Mai