My last post was about the picturebook Home by Carson Ellis. At the end I set a plan to engage Cora further with the theme of home through art making. On a sunny day last week I got her to go outside with me for an observation drawing session.
I have long been a fan of a little book called Observation Drawing with Children. I’m sure I’ve written about it here before. The authors describe observation drawing as a responsive process by which “the viewer become[s] aware of the elusive as well as the obvious qualities of subjects,” (Smith, et al, 1998, p. 6). As such it is easy to understand learning to draw as part of learning to look more closely at and see the world around us. When I had a daily practice of drawing from observation I felt more connected to things around me, more mindful of my surroundings.
Cora hasn’t even shown much interest in making original drawings (realistic or imagined). You can imagine how sad this makes me as an art educator… She has made some incredible drawings over the years but it’s not really her thing. “You like to draw. I like to sing,” she tells me. Knowing this, I shouldn’t have been surprised that she was a somewhat reluctant participant in my plans.
We started by looking at the cover of Home and picking the house that most resembled ours (a log cabin). Then we talked about the shapes and lines that make up our house. Smith, etal write extensively and provide examples of dialogues with children to help readers plan for their own observation drawing sessions with kids. There is something about the back and forth between looking, naming, and drawing that helps make everything more concrete.
Cora had no trouble talking about our house. We named the major shapes we saw. We talked about what rooms are behind each window. But when it came to putting these ideas down on paper, she stalled. She’s afraid of “doing it wrong” and, I think, disappointing me now matter how many times I tell her I’m going to love whatever she does and remind her of the great drawings she has made in the past. I have to remind myself not to push her if she’s not ready for this.
In the end, We worked together on the drawing. I made lots of the big shapes (the fame of the house and windows, for example) and she drew the details (panes of glass and siding).
We’ll try this again soon. Like anything, I believe practice breeds confidence. My hope is that at some point she’ll take off on her own and find a love for drawing all that she sees – at home and abroad.