Anyone can learn to how to draw. I usually get some raised eyebrows when I make that
statement. Skeptical parents shake their
heads and say, “Not me. I can’t even draw
a straight line.”
“Neither can I,” I respond. “When I
want to draw a straight line, I use a ruler.”
Drawing is a learned skill. I didn’t say
that anyone can be a great artist. That re-
quires not only skill, but talent. And tal-
ent cannot be taught.
The skill of drawing, however, can be
taught, and it’s easier than you might
think. The trick is in training the student to draw what she sees, not what she
thinks should be there.
Here are five exercises to help you teach
your children how to draw what they see.
Think of these as artistic “calisthenics,” exercises for the hand, eye, and brain.
1. Draw an object without looking
at your paper.
This is called blind contour drawing.
As the students practice drawing the
contour (outline) of an object without
looking at the paper, a slow transfor-
mation takes place. Their initial efforts
will predictably look like scribbles, but
over time their blind drawings begin to
To do a blind contour drawing, follow
• Place the drawing paper off to your
right side rather than in front of you.
A sketchbook or tablet will work best
here, as it will be less likely to slide
• Position a simple household object
(e.g. a coffee mug) in front and to your
left. This makes it necessary to turn
your head away from the paper.
• Place your pencil on the paper, and do
not remove it until the drawing is finished.
• Focus your eyes on a single point on
the object, and then slowly trace the
outline of the object with your eyes.
• As your eyes follow the outside edge
(contour) of the object, move your
pencil in the same direction. Imagine that your hand and your eyes are
connected, so that what your eyes see,
your hand draws.
• Do not lift your pencil or look at your
paper until you have completely traced
the outline of the object.
2. Do a modified contour drawing.
After you have practiced blind contour
drawing and become comfortable with
the process, it’s time to move to the next
step: modified contour drawing.
This exercise is similar to the first, except that you are allowed to glance back
and forth briefly between the paper and
the object. You should still spend about
95 percent of your time looking at the object you are drawing, but you are allowed
to glance at your paper long enough to
make sure your hand and pencil are not
drifting off course.
These two drills can be frustrating at
first, but they are extremely powerful.
They teach students to slow down and
observe. Another exercise that is helpful
for learning observation is upside down
3. Turn a photograph or line
How to Draw
drawing upside down and copy it.
When I’m doing this exercise with stu-
dents, I usually prefer to have them start
for Teaching Your
Child (or Yourself)
The trick is in training the student
to draw what she sees, not what she
thinks should be there.