Every little budding artist is eventually struck by realism, at least for a period of time. H.o.p. tonight was looking at a drawing of two Egyptian women embracing, an older and a younger woman, in a story of his, and he was struck by the realism of the illustration. He decided to tell me about how you draw something so it looks real.
“Look how real that looks!” he says of the illustration. “How do they do that?”
“Do you want to draw something that looks real like that?” I ask.
“Yes! How can I learn that?”
“Well, you’ve seen my paintings. I do things that look real.”
“No. You use a computer. That’s not real. You don’t draw.”
“True, I use a computer for my painting right now.”
“Mom, I can show you show you how to make things look real. if you want to make something look really real you put a white dot on it for the reflected light and then put a shadow with it. Now take this robot for example, I’m drawing the shadow first. You can draw whatever you want to first. Does the shadow look real? I’m trying to make the robot look real, like he’s light and dark at the same time. So I draw a little white dot on the robot which is the light reflecting on him. The light is reflecting off his forehead. Just like the light is reflecting off that human’s forehead. I want this drawing to look like it really happened. Now time again for the shadow. This would be a good marker for the shadow…”
Thus does eight-year-old H.o.p. instruct me on making things look real with magic markers.
Since he’s adamant on making things look real, I wait a bit and then mention if he used conte crayons or pencils for drawing he could add shading. I only once in a blue moon critique anything H.o.p. draws, because he’s done so well learning on his own and pacing himself just with my giving him books and showing him things online. But I figure it’s time to talk about shading.
“I don’t want to use crayons!”
“These are a different type of crayons.”
I show him some pictures of realistic drawings done with conte crayons.
“I want those crayons!”
I show him some pictures of realistic drawings done with colored pencils.
“I want to do that!”
He does have a few colored pencils and some pastels. Maybe it’s time to get some more. He hasn’t wanted to do smudging or anything before but I go ahead and pull out some available oil pastels and ask him for a piece of paper and do a quick sketch of an imaginary apple with some highlight and shading, talking about light and shadow.
“My drawing is better than yours,” H.o.p. says. “See?” He holds up his robot next to my apple, says, “See? Look! Mine looks more real.”
Then he looks at it again and says, “Oh, yours looks more real.”
“Honey, yours is great! I was just showing you a little about smudging.”
“I guess yours is what you call a masterpiece,” he says in a disappointed voice.
“No, it’s not. Yours is great! I was just showing you smudging.”
And seriously, mine was just a lousy apple sketch done in a few seconds. His was a carefully drawn robot. His was better.
Man, I hate teaching. He puts down his markers for a while and plays with cars.
“I know how to draw pirates!” he says finally. “And to make it look more real, I can use those crayon things!” And he pulls them out.
“Wait, H.o.p.” I go and pull out for H.o.p. the remainder of what pencils I have. He’s thrilled. I do this because I know that it’ll be better for him to smudge with pencils instead of pastels at first, just because of his temperament. He likes his hands clean and the pencils will feel less nasty.
And he sets about drawing a spaceship and another robot. He draws for a while and then gets up and washes the color off his hands and then comes back and finishes his drawing.
“Does the picture look totally real?”
I say it does, though it doesn’t. I know to him it does and he’s making a great effort and he’s learning something completely new. He’s not liked to use pencils or anything other then pens or markers before. He’s bang up with markers doing marvelous vivid pictures and can see a cartoon and recognize and memorize immediately what makes the character and draw it. He’s been so marvelous at cartooning, imparting personality and expression econimically and immediately, that I’ve pretty much stuck with these interests as far as drawing. This is his first time with something like pencils and adding shading directly onto a subject. The light direction for one part of the robot is from the left and changes to the right by the time one gets to the feet, but s’right.
“I can’t wait for dad to get home so I can show him! He will think it’s totally real! And I’ll tell him no it’s not, it’s a picture! This is my first real drawing with pencil!”
He’s loving it.
“You know, people learn shading and light by looking at a thing and drawing it, like that cup,” I tell him. “That might be something you’d like to try one day.”
“Yeah. But right now I’m drawing another pencil picture of the robot running through smoke.”
He has already picked up that pen and pencil go real well together. He’s doing another picture where it’s pen and pencil.
Gotta be careful with these things, with giving a kid some tips in such a way that they don’t feel overwhelmed or their ability negated.
“Can I use all the tools?” he asks.
“You can use every tool you want!”
“I’m proud of myself!”