How do I draw for a child?
December 30, 2014 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I gave my three-year old an easel with drawing implements for Christmas and would like to be able to draw pictures on it that look like actual things and not crazed scribbles of a drunk. How do I do this?

I would like to be able to draw a "cat" and have my daughter recognize this drawing as a "cat" and not a hairy eyeball (this happened).

Ideally there is a book that has simple-step instructions for drawing a wide assortment of things from cats, to dogs, to flowers, or perhaps a boat if we're getting crazy. These do not need to be intricate drawings, just legible. I'd like to be able to draw simple scenes for her - when she asks 'make an elephant!' I would like to produce an elephant not what she lovingly described "a snake holding pancakes" (also happened).

When I Google around for this sort of thing I only get results for books that want to teach me how to be some sort of expert when all I really want is to draw a simple tableau of a dog's face and maybe a nice man (or woman) with a mustache.

posted by Tevin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Search for books that are aimed at small children and choose the simplest-looking ones. For instance, here are books aimed at young kids for how to draw animals.

Then you and she can learn together!
posted by erst at 12:59 PM on December 30, 2014

Response by poster: (I forgot to ask for online instructions too, if possible - thanks!)
posted by Tevin at 1:07 PM on December 30, 2014

Google Ed Emberley animals. The results are simple but recognizable.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:13 PM on December 30, 2014 [11 favorites]

Try including the word "outline" in your Googling. For example, "cat outline" gives you this, and "man with mustache outline" gives you this. I'd think some of those are simple enough to copy without instructions. Or you could print them out and trace.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:15 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came in to say Ed Emberley books too -- plus you can use them to teach her how to draw herself
posted by Mchelly at 1:16 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ed Emberley, yes!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know that there is one true universally recognizable symbol that would consistently distinguish between a cat and a hairy eyeball, but maybe are you looking for common pictograms, like the kind used as universal symbols? (So search on pictogram cat or pictogram elephant and find a drawable version.)

Also, does your daughter recognize those, and the issue is with your artwork, or does she not recognize those as 'cat' or 'elephant' either? Three year olds are often awesomely and irrepressibly creative to the point of manufacturing entirely unique perspectives like that.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:31 PM on December 30, 2014

Also came in to suggest the Ed Emberly books! I loved them as a kid, and they're a secret babysitting trick--the illustrations are so easy to pick up, that little Lily thinks I am absolute magic when we do crayons. For your kids, though, you might want to actually let them see the books ;)
posted by mimi at 1:42 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try using the word cartoon or cartooning in your searches.

Here's one with a cat, a dog, and a bird.
posted by edbles at 1:44 PM on December 30, 2014

Response by poster: Those Emberley books look awesome, added a handful to my cart. Wish he had a few more on his website (but understand why he doesn't).

And no - the problem is definitely not with her recognition skills but with my perverse lack of drawing acumen. :)
posted by Tevin at 1:47 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can do rabbits and bears reliably now with let's draw Animals And plan to get the rest of her books as I like her style.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:04 PM on December 30, 2014

I agree with BH above that you could get a good start with tracing simple things and trying to go from there, but mostly I am commenting in this thread in order to encourage you to post a photo of the snake with pancakes.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:31 PM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is great, but only if you are going for realism and not cartoony stuff.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 3:21 PM on December 30, 2014

Google up something like 'drawing animals from letters' or the like and you can find a bunch of "turn the letter 'A' into this awesome animal" type of tutorials.

like this Drawing with Alphabets series.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:25 PM on December 30, 2014

Nth-ing the Ed Emberley books but also recommend Mark Kistler's books as well for that "simple / for kids but also fun for adults learning to draw type books". Check out his "You can draw in 30 days..."
posted by safetyfork at 3:55 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you may be psyching yourself out. As a human with a hand and a working brain, you already have the skill to make a crude but recognizable symbol to represent almost any object. You can draw stick figures, right? Well, expand that into drawing something like a gingerbread man. He's just a cartoon outline roughly representing a human. Need to draw an elephant? Draw a gingerbread elephant. Need to draw a robot? Gingerbread robot!

You can look up drawing tutorials if you want to, but I don't think you need them for what you're trying to do. Just stop worrying about getting the drawing "right" and doodle the thing.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:26 AM on December 31, 2014

what to draw and how to draw it by e.g. lutz might be just what you're looking for.
posted by goml at 4:23 PM on December 31, 2014

the elephant is on page 45...
posted by goml at 4:25 PM on December 31, 2014

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