Best book for 8 year old who loves to draw?
December 14, 2012 1:18 PM   Subscribe

My 8 year old loves to draw, but she wants to "draw better." I just bought her one of these. What's the best book out there to help her improve her abilities? This would be a book that she could largely read/use herself with occasional help from me.
posted by gwint to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain? My sister and I each read it and did the exercises out of it starting around that age or a little older.
posted by scody at 1:25 PM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

When I was young, I ate How to Draw Animals up. If you girl is anything like I was at her age, drawing animals was THE thing I wanted to draw, and that book was total catnip to me. (At the time: drawing inanimate stuff felt boring, drawing people too intimidating, cartooning felt silly.)

There's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which has really great theory and exercises, but might be a bit too wordy for an 8-year-old to use on her own. However, many of the exercises it teaches would be repeatable without having to understand the entire book--like putting a picture upside down to try and copy it, which helps turn off parts of your brain that get in the way of drawing.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:26 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Draw Squad!
posted by colin_l at 1:28 PM on December 14, 2012

Ed Emberley books are awesome. I loved them when I was a kid and my own artsy kids use them as starting points all the time!
posted by mamabear at 1:33 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Take a look at Drawing with Children mentioned in a previous thread.
posted by Dansaman at 1:34 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could just get her lots of 8 year old appropriate books and comics and encourage her to copy drawings. That's pretty much how I (and a lot of my amazing professional artist friends) learned! I love Raina Telgemeier's Drama(and Smile) and Jamie Smart's colourful and energetic comics and illustrations, and there's a good chance she'll also be into some manga(ask your local bookstore for age appropriate recommendations!)

Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain is definitely the book that helped me the most, but it's definitely a bit advanced for 8 year olds. You could buy it and pick out specific exercises for her, though!
posted by sawdustbear at 1:41 PM on December 14, 2012

Personally, I know the Ed Emberley books were very popular around our house. Same with Drawing With Children; when I was younger, I read it and liked how it showed the before and after pictures of how kids improved. I thought, "Cool; I could be better!" and then promptly did nothing... but it inspired me anyway :P

My friend the professional artist, who has two kids around that age, says, "Oh, jeez. How about a book full of good art she likes, and a note that says 'Try to draw your favorites. Don't be bothered that you can't get it perfect. Enjoy it. Do another one.'"

If you consider the no-books approach, I remember an exercise we did in a middle school art class, which our teacher referred to as "Parts is Parts." Before we did self-portraits in colored pencils, we had to cut out magazine photos of eyes, ears, noses and mouths -- ten of each, for a nice broad selection of angles and styles -- and paste them in columns on sheets of drawing paper. Then we drew our versions of each selection immediately next to the cutouts. I think this may have included stylized images as well as photos, but I could be wrong.
posted by Madamina at 1:41 PM on December 14, 2012

I don't know if they still make them, but when I was that age I had several How To Draw books put out by Disney that broke down how each character was constructed and other tips. I loved them because each book was from a different movie that I was into at the time. If they still make them I'm sure they would feature the current movies the kids are into.

While copying cartoon drawings doesn't seem like it would translate well to realistic drawing ability down the road, I really do believe that it helped me work out some other interesting things like shading, drawing shapes, color, shadows, facial expressions, etc. (FWIW, I got very serious about realistic art later on in junior high and high and later went on to study design in college)
posted by halseyaa at 1:44 PM on December 14, 2012

The Andrew Loomis books are good resources, particularly for figure drawing. He's been hugely influential on comic book artists.

His first book, most accessible to beginners is Fun with a Pencil.

If you look around a slight bit you can find these as PDFs right now, buy them used or you can wait for them to be reprinted this spring.

How to draw Comics the Marvel way! might be a fun way to engage her. The text was written by Stan Lee and is in his own trademark style. Again, mostly good for figures.
posted by bonehead at 1:45 PM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I nth picking out exercises from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Like turning the reference photo upside down. That's such an amazing exercise!
posted by Hawk V at 1:46 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Andrew Loomis, especially "Fun With a Pencil" to start. If that's not quite what she'd enjoy, what about some websites geared toward kids like
? I know it's not specifically a book, though, so might not be what you're looking for.
posted by wolfgirl at 2:00 PM on December 14, 2012

I was going to suggest in the above post as a possibility.
posted by wolfgirl at 2:07 PM on December 14, 2012

I'd also say Fun With a Pencil. It begins with building faces from a simple circle and other loose shapes, and then builds on the initial steps with basic anatomy and perspective. Many people download Loomis books, but some of his books have now been republished due to the new attention to his teaching.

Also, if she likes animation and cartoon characters, look for the Preston Blair book. He was a Disney animator who uses familiar characters to show how faces and figures are constructed from basic forms. This is another guide that has been rediscovered due to the Internet. Don't know if it is available in book form.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:38 PM on December 14, 2012

Tracing paper is also a great gift along with books and comics. Tracing/copying helps to teach about shapes, strokes, and how perspective works.
posted by quince at 3:52 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that cartooning is not that useful a thing for 8 year olds to learn - in my experience if it isn't accompanied by lots of drawing from life, it tends to lead to their drawing style rigidifying and becoming somewhat 'flat'. Cartooning is often something that people do best after they have already mastered figure drawing from life. If she does want to draw cartoons, encourage her to draw simple strips from her own ideas, so that she can develop her storytelling skills without trying to emulate the highly stylised Western-animation style that is taught in most children's cartooning books.

Drawing on the right side of the brain will probably help her a lot, but I wonder whether she wouldn't also benefit from an anatomy for artists book? Obviously you should buy it yourself, in person to make sure it fits with your household's standards around nudity, but some of them are just full of skeletons and muscles, and what kid doesn't love skeletons and muscles? Learning how the body is put together will help her much more at this point than learning how to ape the Disney style.
posted by Acheman at 1:11 AM on December 15, 2012

You can get many of the Loomis books (pdf's) free, on line, here: Andrew Loomis Books
Including "Fun with a Pencil"
posted by mbarryf at 5:44 AM on December 15, 2012

Lonnie is amazing and never gets enough recommendations.

Watson Guptil's Rendering In Pen And Ink is a little ...ambitious for an 8-year old but might be good as an aspirational kind of book, like for when they get old enough to deal with ink reserves, whip this book out. I remember it's very studious and dry and Victorian and exhaustive but to me that meant it iwas " right", a real Rowan up book about pen technique and it is completely and totally unambiguous about what you have to do, draw ten circles, draw ten squares, etc, etc.
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 AM on December 15, 2012

My almost-9 year old daughter just took out these Drawing Shape by Shape books from the school library, and has plowed her way through every one, and really enjoyed them.

The Models series of books are something that she's been enjoying for years. She's gotten really creative with them, and I'll happily send you images of how she's explored drawing with them.

The only other suggestion I have is drawing from books, and museum visits. After the Tim Burton Exhibit in Toronto, she explored that style for a while. She loves drawing characters she imagines come straight out of The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. We went to a restaurant after, and pulled out a pen and drew while the inspiration was fresh in our minds.

And after seeing Bill Traylor's work at the Frist this past summer, she now draws on every scrap, understanding now that sometimes a brand-new blank sheet of white paper is sometimes not as inspiring as something with an imperfection. There, the musuem had a children's section where we made Gee's Bend "quilts" from strips of tissue, and we explored everything we'd just seen.

And I agree with the tracing. Yesterday at the diner, she didn't colour on the children's menu placemat - she flipped it over, traced the seal that was on it and drew a mermaid and ocean scene around it. My best advice is always travel with a good black pen, and look around for anything to draw on.

Occasionally I'll doodle along with her, and show her things she'd probably like, like "Hey, let's play with hatching and crosshatching!" or, she'll draw a figure, then I'll add tones and shadows. Asking leading questions helps too "Hey, sometimes eyebrows are indeed a line painted or drawn straight on the skin, you're right - but look at my eyebrow and draw what you see. A lot of individual hairs, right?" Or we talk about face proportions, and realistic ones versus cartooning.

I don't know what she's reading, but because my daughter is really into graphic novels, she spends a lot of time drawing the characters. So there are many doodles on scraps of paper around the house of Chi, Courtney Crumrin and Anya.

This is such a great stage! I love seeing kids' drawing develop over time. It's so nice that you want to help her! If she ever wants a drawing penpal, MeMail me. The only problem we have around here is the proliferation of art, and how not to keep everything.
posted by peagood at 8:39 AM on December 15, 2012

« Older Help me help the machines talk!   |   Throw in some beans and let 'em go... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.