Saturday, May 10, 2008

Taro Gomi's "Doodles"

Been busy lately, I have been working on a big project that I want to talk about soon, but I can't just yet.

I got my kids this great book called "Doodles" by Taro Gomi (the Japanese artist behind "Everybody Poops") and it's full of big pages that have great drawing projects. It's a huge book - close to 400 pages - and pretty inventive. It's full of really funny and whimsical ideas that will spark any young artist's imagination.

A while ago I read a book (I think it was "Why We Draw" by Peter Steinhart) and if I remember correctly, it said that most kids stop drawing around age seven because that's the age when teachers and parents start to tell kids "you're drawing that cat wrong, cats don't have seven legs" and so drawing stops being fun and starts being a chore, which makes kids give it up completely. And why not give it up? Schools and parents rarely seem to put much importance on art or learning to draw, those are always the first school programs cut when budgets shrink (it seems to me, anyway) and so very few people keep drawing throughout their lives.

This strikes a personal chord with me, I stopped drawing around that age, myself, and didn't pick it up again until I was around fourteen years old. To this day, I struggle and struggle with every drawing, and - I may be imaging this - but I always notice how many people around me seem to draw effortlessly and easily. Not me - every drawing for me is a bit of a search. I always have to scratch around to find what I'm trying to draw and I can't say any drawing ever really comes easily to me. Probably a lot of that is just genetic, or something, but drawing is definitely counter-intuitive to me. Drawing, for me, is not a natural activity at all. It takes all of my brain power and powers of concentration to do a good drawing (or even a bad one)! So I can't help but wonder: if I hadn't taken a seven-year-break from drawing, would drawing be easier and more natural for me? I'll never know.

So if you have a young child, or nephew or niece, or cousin, do them a favor and encourage them to draw and to not give it up. It's a useful skill to have, no matter what career you end up doing. And think about giving them one of Gomi's books (and maybe a big box of crayons) as a way to keep them drawing and spark a little inspiration as well.

(As a side note, Gomi has written several versions of the book. If you're in the market for one, check the Amazon reviews. In one of the books, apparently Gomi drew an empty coffin and encourages the reader to "fill it with a body". This, apparently, shocked quite a few adults when their child discovered that page. So avoid that particular edition if that kind of thing upsets you. Probably it's cultural - maybe in Japan that kind of thing is more palatable than it seems to be to English-speaking Amazon reviewers).

Anyway, here are some sample pages from "Doodles":

This one says "Draw a very small elephant walking across the table."

This one says "These are hamburgers. Draw what you think is inbetween the buns".

This one says simply "Feed the Bunnies".

My favorite pages in the book are two in the back, which are blank, and one says "Draw a cushion in trouble", and on the next page it says "Draw a chair that is bored".

That's pretty cool. How awesome would it be to have someone throw a challenge like that to you when you were a kid?!? This guy is a genius. If I ran an animation school, that would be the only requirement to get in: if you can draw a cushion in trouble and a chair that's bored, and put that over, you are truly ready to be an animation artist.

Bigger and better posts coming soon.


JoBi said...

The challenge for me was a white page.

A full white page. Better a bunch of them. One of my grandfathers allways kept unuseful commercial letters, just to have sheets for me. The other grandfather had always on his desk a cup full of sharpened mechanical pencils. Ready to go.

The desk of one of my two grandfathers. A pencil. An eraser. A whole afternoon, full time. Then the magic came. Pirates. Cowboys. Indians. Battles. Castles. Forts. Knights. Fights.

Then came the cartoons. Copying them. Learning their mechanics. Enjoying, analyzing, studying.

Well. 30 years later of hearing that first "do something useful instead of drawing". Almost 10 years later of my PhD on Physics. After living in three countries. Speaking three languages, reading five.

Now I'm ready to pay a debt to the child that spent countless afternoons drawings. Next May 20th is my first deadline for being published on a magazine... and being paid for it.

It has been a long road. In my hand is the red mechanical pencil my grandfather gave me more than 30 years ago. I have a box with commercial letters, rejected documents, white paper for my 3½ years old son, that just two days ago jump on my lap and said to me: "daddy, teach me how to draw".

The cicle of life.

Adam Barteluk said...

I completely agree with and relate to what your saying.

I too stopped drawing for a number of years. Even though i studied art and illustration i became interested in creating things in other ways apart from drawing. I forgot how fundementally important drawing is to all forms of visual art. I'd do the odd doodle or sketch but didn't keep it up, not properly, not with the same passion i had as a child.I guess you could say i fell out of love with drawing.

When i tried to doing it after so long i really struggled and i've done so ever since. I'm now studying animation and i am drawing more than i did in those "wilderness years" but still not enough. I'm trying though and feel as though i've really improved over the last 7 months or so.

Finally i'm in love with and inspired by drawing again but i think i'll always regret the time i stopped. It's nice to know i'm not only one in that boat....

Anonymous said...

"it said that most kids stop drawing around age seven because that's the age when teachers and parents start to tell kids "you're drawing that cat wrong, cats don't have seven legs" and so drawing stops being fun and starts being a chore, which makes kids give it up completely."

Yeah, but for me it stopped being fun and started being a chore after spending 16 years as a feature animation Clean Up artist, obsessed with an ultra clean line quality and always making sure I was drawing "on model" .

No more fun and after a while I found that I didn't know how to draw anymore . I don't mean that clean-up artists don't know how to draw or are not good artists: being a good clean-up artist takes a very particular kind of discipline and I'm told I was good at it . I have great admiration for those who do it well . But for me it ended up being an artistic dead end. I was an animator and the clean-up dept. was something I told myself was going to be a temporary stop along the way, but the money was really good on those features for a top Lead Key in the 90's , and one movie led to another and then 16 years later I was still in my "temporary" position and had forgotten how to create and draw , without having someone else's work to draw over and to put "on model" .

So I've slowly been relearning how to draw and have fun at it.

I totally relate to what you wrote about struggling and searching to find the drawing, Mark. I appreciate your honesty. This is a really helpful blog.

I'm going to go draw a cat with seven legs jumping up on a bored chair.

clockwerkz said...

Great post about drawing and encouraging little ones to keep drawing. I've come to learn that my sons mimic whatever I do. So the oldest, who's 3, has taken to drawing and even keeping a sketchbook because he sees me toting mine around and drawing. So if there's ever been a good excuse for me to keep drawing and struggling with my crappy drawings, it's lead by example. :)
About the school system and Art, it's only gonna get worse. Especially with computers and video games competing. Not to knock them, since I do work for the game industry.. it just means parents have to make their children an even bigger priority than before, imo.

-Carlos Fins

Pooka MacPhellimey said...

My wife got the Doodle Allyear book for christmas from a friend and it is really great, @364 pages, it contains a mix of just your normal doodles doodles (spray everyone with water from this hosepipe) and seasonal ones ( draw the present you really want, and now show the drawing to someone). this guy is so outsie the box he has made his own box in a far far away land and has sent all of us an invatation to let go of our insecurites and visit him with our crayons and draw on the walls of his world and stuff...

getting carried away. It is great how people interact with the books. Recently a friend saw this book and was facinated with it and began to colour in some pages. He couldn't believe how liberating it was, this guy hasn't drawn since he was 6 or 7 and is now a trader with a phd in partical phsyics, but the joy he got out of the book was unreal, he is getting one for christmas.

Jeremy Canton said...

Haha thats very kewl.

jodi said...

...and I drew a boa constrictor eating an elephant and I showed it to the adults and they asked, "why did you draw a picture of a hat?"

Saint-Expery was right. Adults never seem to see the elephant.

"Doodles", huh?

It looks good. The body in the!

Storyboard Artists said...

great blog

BEN said...

I had the fortune to grow up in a numerous family and also to work as babysitter with my little cousins.

I learn that stimulate the fantasy of the children is the more important thing you can do for they!

The cloud cries, the wind speaks, the see-saw is a pirate ship, the sofa is an horse, the umbrella is a tent and so on! The cat must have six legs!

Stimulating the fantasy of the child ours is stimulated also ( look to Neverland, Patch Adams..)

Masked Stinker said...

I can relate to what your saying.
I stopped drawing as well when I hit a certain age.

But it wasn't because of adults.

At a certain age, I looked at my drawings,
realized how bad they were,
got depressed and quit.

Then I'd start up again,
get disgusted and quit.

This cycle happened several times.

Finally, I stuck with it and started to improve.
But it's stll often a struggle.

ALH said...

"it said that most kids stop drawing around age seven because that's the age when teachers and parents start to tell kids "you're drawing that cat wrong, cats don't have seven legs"

I've had an oddly opposite experience- One of my earliest traumatic art memories was being told my accurate colouring of my real-life spotty dog with a black and orange face was incorrect, so in my rage i scribbled out a black bodied cat with a preposterous blue head..and was praised for it. Words cannot begin to describe how much that pissed me off, and this was when i was way under 7 years old :D

Plus, of course- Drawing tends to be discouraged because a kid sat doodling all lesson isnt going to be paying attention..

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