I’ve recently become acquainted with the work of sketchbook artist and author Danny Gregory. Inspired by his book Everyday Matters, a Memoir (Hyperion, 2003), I’ve started using some of his drawing and journal techniques with my students. In his book, he describes teaching himself to draw in a sketchbook/ journal using a “slow, careful gaze” when rendering the objects or scene he is observing. Instead of drawing what you know, draw what you see.
For example, if I place an apple on the table for my young art students to draw in their sketchbooks, most will begin by quickly drawing a circle. While it’s helpful to start drawing using basic geometric shapes, by slowing down and really observing the apple carefully, we can see that it’s most likely not a perfect shape. One half may be larger; it may have bumps, scratches or even a worm hole. All of these details make that one particular apple unique. Along with the sketch, I ask that they write down five unique observations they noted while drawing. This helps to get them to slow down and really think about what they see.
Using this exercise in the classroom with your students, begin a drawing/writing session with a few ordinary objects from around the classroom--writing instruments, scissors, tape dispensers or more complex objects based on the age of the class. Ask the students to take a full ten minutes to really observe and draw what is placed on the table. Then ask students to note five or more details they observed while looking closely at the object. Take it a step further, and have children write a short story about the object, incorporating those five noted details.
Best wishes to all our readers for a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!