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The Art of Character Building

30 May 2013

My 10 year old is a naturally smart and bright kid. He’s blitzing through his maths, languages, reading, sports with ease… and he’s naturally very confident, which helps him a lot. He likes to aim towards 100% and he’ll work hard to get there.

My 8 year old is also good at school, but he has a different inner drive. He’s naturally creative, he’s an observer, a dreamer, he enjoys and studies the moment, in fact, he puts his everything into the moment. He’s superb at lateral thinking, he thinks outside of the box and comes up with the most amazing (and weird) ideas.

However, this kind of intelligence is not as *tangible* as say, a test result… and we can often see that he gets a little gloomy whenever he compares himself with his big brother’s “high achievements”.

Sigh. It makes me feel so sad and powerless. As a mum, I can only tell him “You’re smart as well, but in a different way!” a couple of hundred times… until it goes in through one ear and out the other.

So I thought I would nurture his creative side a bit… and put my own 5 YEARS OF ART SCHOOL + 3 YEARS OF DESIGN SCHOOL to good use haha!

This is what I came up with.

Art Lessons!

Week 1 – Line drawings and composition, using rule of thirds.

Week 2 – Shading and gradient. Use different materials, like graphite pencils, charcoal sticks, soft pastel, oil pastels.

Today’s Lesson is Week 3 – Doing a still life using soft pastels.

Drawing and Shading 101

In our backyard, we set up a still life composition, using random objects that my son found.

Drawing and Shading 101

We sat side by side and I – kind of – coached him without being too bossy:

Don’t draw a definite line. Draw a feathered line, until you get the right shape. Change your line weight to show where the light falls on the object. Thin lines for the light bits, thick lines for the dark bits. Squint your eyes to find the dark parts of the composition.

He didn’t listen to any of it haha!

Drawing and Shading 101

If my 10yo was doing this drawing project with me, he would draw a line, then rub it out. Draw another line, then rub it out. He would try again and again until he made it PERFECT. He would make himself terribly frustrated and angry that his drawing “looked bad” and he’d be on the brink of giving up.

But my 8yo… just sat there for an hour with me, as happy as could be. Drawing. Doodling. Playing with the lines. Enjoying the shapes. Laughing at his wonky objects. He would occasionally look over at my drawing and say, “That’s cool!” and go right on with his own drawing, in his own style. He was so so content.

Drawing and Shading 101

I opened up my old box of soft pastels (which I won as an art prize in Year 11!!)

And I showed him how to SEE COLOURS within colours:

Your brain says that the wheelbarrow is ”orange”, but if you squint and look veeeeeery closely, you’ll notice that it’s actually red in the shadow and pinkish in the light. The rust is brown with a bit of blue in it too.

I was sooo channelling my inner Monet, and I was COMPLETELY LOVING IT :D

Drawing and Shading 101

I showed him how to shade objects so they looked 3 dimensional.

And how to actually SEE shadows and light as blocks of colour.

Drawing and Shading 101

I also told him that the background is just as important as the foreground. So we have to colour in bits of the background, so the objects don’t look like they are floating in space.

As we approached the end, I kept saying that art is not meant to look perfect. If you want something to look perfect and exact, then you can just take a photo. Art is interpreting what something looks like to YOU.

I told him – So really, you can draw any way you want. There’s not right or wrong way.

Drawing and Shading 101

When he announced that he was finished, there was no shyness, or regret, or apology, or disappointment or anger… just happiness and real pride in his work.

I have to admit that I was quite surprised by his end reaction/emotion.

Because, I felt a bit bad that mine looked quite realistic and “good”. Maybe I should have made mine look a bit more crap?? I was afraid that he would compare our work and hate his own work, and decide that “art” was not for him because he couldn’t make his drawing look like his mum’s drawing. But phew. Thankfully, that kind of thinking wasn’t part of his personality. I was so proud of him!

I told him that I was impressed with his first effort. And more importantly, that he had an excellent attitude towards experimenting, learning new things and he didn’t judge and criticise his own work. He worked hard and he enjoyed himself.

Anyway, it’s been a few weeks after our little “Art Lessons”… and it now seems like this nurturing of his creative side has given him A LOT more confidence in the rest of his school work – he’s been getting some excellent results! Funny how it all works.

So proud of you little buddy!