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.