This program was a huge draw (sorry I had to!) Kids come together and learn how to draw cute animals step by step. They also learn how to develop their own personal style, and how to infuse their drawings with characterization. It’s about drawing skills, yes. But it’s also about characterization skills. Storytelling. Humor. Artistic confidence. Kids encouraging each other. Delight.
I was shocked by how quickly this program filled. It’s so simple: no special materials are needed. Paper, pencils, marker-pens, and drawing books from your collection. I HIGHLY recommend that you purchase multiple copies of Heegyum Kim’s Draw 62 Animals and Make Them Cute, and the rest of her series. Her book inspired this program. She is the queen of characters and simple line drawing.
Note: If you plan to photocopy pages to have everyone draw the same illustration, ensure that you are following the proper copyright laws for your area.
What you need:
- a PowerPoint that encourages kids to analyse and compare character illustrations
- Characterization Brainstorming Form
- Paper (could be whole sheets, or cut into fourths)
- marker-pens (because we had them on hand, we used Sharpie Ultra Fine Tip markers. There are many more expensive artist tools, but for the purposes of this program Sharpies were fine)
- Step-by-Step Drawing Books (like the ones by Heegyum Kim)
Spend 5 – 10 minutes discussing characterization and artistic style, using your PowerPoint and the characterization tips I outline below. Explain how drawings are built up of smaller shapes, and that drawings are much easier if you break them down into steps. Encourage kids to use light, loose pressure rather than pressing hard on the page.
Then, give the kids 50 minutes of free drawing time! You could have them start by all following the same steps, and sharing their results. For example, we started with the Hedgehog drawing from Draw 62 Animals and Make Them Cute. It is relatively easy. After that, let them choose which steps to follow, or draw on their own. You can sit and draw with them, available to give suggestions and help when needed. Bonus points if you can bring in some artistically-minded volunteers to circulate and offer one-on-one help!
One of the ways I encouraged kids to enhance their drawing was with a brainstorming form. Kids answered the questions:
- What characteristics does your character have?
- Describe their personality.
- How does the character feel in this moment?
- What is one word that you want people to use to describe your character?
The questions start broad, and become narrower with each step, until kids are asked to think about what their drawing will communicate to the audience.
I considered adding more questions such as “How will you show the characteristic in the drawing?” For example “nervous” might be shown by narrowed eyes or hair standing on end. I decided to omit the more specific questions, and instead have a discussion about it.
I also did an exercise where I showed kids 4 images of highly characterized animals one at a time. I asked them to describe the creature. “Happy, silly, childish, dumb.” Then we discussed how they knew the character should be described that way: “He’s smiling, his tongue is sticking out, he is pumping his arm.”
Then I showed them 3 images of animals drawn by the same artist. I asked them to tell me what was the same. “Their eyes are big circles with tiny dots in the middle. Their fur is shown by lots of tiny lines. They are wearing silly clothes.” This led into a discussion about the artist’s style. I encouraged them to think about their own personal style. I recommend that educators running this program create PowerPoints using this structure.
A very simple and funny way to encourage kids to think about characterization, is to ask them to think of a suitable name for their characters.
Facilitate a Positive Atmosphere
This is one of the most important parts of the event. Be very clear at the start of the program that we are here to have fun. No one in the program is going to judge or grade your drawings. We’re all here because we enjoy drawing, we love cute animals, and we want to grow as artists. No one will be making any negative comments about anyone’s drawings. And no one will make negative comments about their own drawings. This means you, the facilitator, can’t say negative things about your artistic abilities either!
I should say: I am not an outstandingly talented illustrator. But pretty much everyone is talented enough to run this program. It’s more about understanding character and visual communication. Plus, to most children, your drawing skill level will be impressive. Especially if you make a point to not put yourself down.
It was so much fun. The energy was incredible – kids were cheering each other on, learning from each other, and excitedly sharing their drawings. I loved watching as they followed the steps, but then added their own creative spin: ponytails on a hedgehog, a top hat on a whale, a rockstar cat. The event was full of both focus and excitement. Usually my programs are a bit heavy on the excitement side, so it was cool to run a program with a slightly different tone.
One parent told me that her child spent the entire evening drawing after the program! Doesn’t get any better than that.
As I said before, this program filled more quickly than any other program I’ve run in libraries! And it’s one of the simplest concepts I’ve done. It goes to show that:
a) kids want more art events
b) anything to do with cute animals will bring a crowd and
c) sometimes the simplest ideas are the best!
What simple art programs have you run for children?