Book Review: Drawing with Children – A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too.

January 2, 2013 in Beginners, Books, Lvl 0

“We are all creative. Creativity is the hallmark human capacity that has allowed us to survive thus far. Our brains are wired to be creative, and the only thing stopping you from expressing the creativity that is your birthright is your belief that there are creative people and uncreative people and that you fall in that second category.” ~Shelly Carson

The Begin Drawing Books

Book Review Drawing with Children  A Creative Method for Adult Beginners Too.

I don’t get it. It seems to me that the information I’ve written in this site is necessary and something that many people need. Yet, the books about this subject are almost impossible to find.


Every beginning drawing book I found assumed a level of skill from the reader that many of the readers may not have.  They start with 3D shapes and volume, with shading and construction, yet they never once asked, does the person reading this book even know how control their pencil?

How come?

Am I the only one writing about this stuff? I can’t be. There must be  SOMEONE else teaching drawing at this level.

I’m not able to write about EVERYTHING. Surely there are things that I’ve missed. I’m sure that there are things I say and write that don’t resonate with some people but if it were said a different way by someone else, it might.

So I went out to look for books. Books that I could recommend that would compliment the information I’ve written.

I searched for a while and after looking through shelves of books, I actually found a book, a single book, that I can proudly recommend.

If you’ve liked the information in this site, you’re in luck. The book I’m going to be reviewing in this post is just what you’re looking for.

About This Review

Okay, before I begin, I just wanted to let you know that:

  1. every link to the book is an affiliate link. Which means if you buy the book using this link, Amazon will give me a tiny percentage of the money they earn from your purchase. Your support is appreciated,
  2. I’m going to write what I like about the book first and what I DON’T like about the book second,
  3. I’m going to give suggestions on how this book ought to be used.

That being out the way, let’s begin…

The Book

Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too is exactly what the title says. Mona Brookes has written a book for adults so they can teach their children how to draw, but doing so actually ends up teaching the adults how to draw too.

The goal of the book is to help you become a good observational artist (notice I used the word artist not draftsman. I’ll explain myself later in this review).

What I Love About This Book

There’s a lot to like about this book. Before you even get to the foreword, there’s a section called “A Note to Parents and Educators” which is worth buying the book for.

It really should be a blog post of something. One of the many things it brings up is a comparison between how writing is seen in schools compared to drawing. Just to show how much more valued writing is compared to drawing.

It really makes you think, but one of my favorite paragraphs is the one below which is written within the context of how drawing stimulates your brain:

“As brain scientists interested in the whole spectrum of human learning, we know that the trained, practiced, stimulated brain is also more efficient at new learning. If we develop the building blocks of visual perception, visual spacial organization, and visual discrimination by learning to draw, our brain cannot help but transfer these skills to such a tasks as mathematics, which is at it’s base the organization of objects in space, or to reading and spelling, which require visual attention to detail as well as pattern and organization in space, as the eye seeps across the line of print and down to the next line.”

Once you get into the first part of the book, there are a lot reasons why this book is worth having on your shelf if you’re just beginning to learn to draw. Let me break it down Chapter by Chapter. This won’t take long. Especially since out of the nine or so chapters in this book I only really like about four(ish) of them.

Oh, just to let you know, the book doesn’t actually number its chapters:

Chapter 1 – Before You Draw:

This a great chapter on the psychology of drawing and why people often quit. It’s great at relieving fears and pressures when it comes to drawing.

Chapter 2- Setting the Stage:

A great chapter on how to prepare a good drawing environment, although I completely disagree with the drawing equipment recommended in this chapter when it comes to grown ups, SOME of the equipment is great for kids.

Chapter 3 – Creating a Supportive Climate:

This chapter is great for improving the environment for beginners. Including what language to use for people starting out. Very important for building confidence. I think, eventually, as the artist begins to get better, the “forbidden words” MUST come into use or else complete growth is impossible.

Chapter 4 – Choosing your Starting Level:

My favorite chapter in the book. THIS is the chapter to get the book for. It sets up tests that tell you what level of drawing you’re at. This helps to point you and your kids to the lessons they should start learning from and working on to develop the skills you need to learn. The tests are great.

Below is an example of the test of Level 1 and Level 2. I traced the test and had my six year-old daughter do it. She did great. She’s definitely at “Level 2”:

Drawing With Children and 6 year old daughter test

Drawing With Children 6 year old daughter test

The Lesson Chapters

Chapter 5 – Lesson 1:

These lessons are great at relaxation exercises, tool experimentation and what the author calls, “The 5 elements of Shape”.

The five elements are similar to my 3 line types only there are more types. Like Dots, Circles, Angles, as well as straights and “C” curves.

This is very interesting and if you find this helps you more than the three types of lines I mention, then you should use this instead. The best part of this Lesson though, is the drawing games and warm-ups.

These are great exercises and a great idea for starting your day of drawing as a beginner. My favorite is the “Mirror Imaging Warm-up. Learning to make something look the same on both sides of a drawing is critical. Wine bottle anyone?

Some of the exercises are very similar to the ones I made. In fact, you can use them to add to what I shared on my posts and they’d fit perfectly. If my exercises aren’t enough and you need a few more steps to get the hang of things, this chapter has plenty of help for you.

Chapter 6 – Lesson 2:

Around here is where the trouble starts. I’ll talk about that below but first let me write about what I like. The section on overlapping is great.

The little exercises are very cool. The section on making adjustments and changes are incredibly handy. There’s something liberating about making a mistake and using it to improve a drawing.

But hands down, the best part of this Lesson is the section called “Projecting the image on the paper” something I have yet to master. This little bit of the book gives you tips on how to teach your self and kids to do it. I am very impressed.

Chapter 8 (yes I skipped a chapter) – Lesson 4:

Has an advanced topic regarding observational drawing, the topic of Positive and Negative space. It’s a good chapter. A bit advanced though. The explanation of these advanced notions are pretty good and worth reading. They also have very cool exercises concerning Positive and Negative Space.

What I Just Don’t Like About This Book

The book is very limited in the drawing skills it actually teaches.  There are sections that I downright disagree with and some sections that really bug me. For example:

Chapter 9 – Lesson 5:

In this Lesson there’s a section on “feelings.” Now, I’m not against feeling and emotional content in your drawings. It’s often the spark that makes a drawing into art, BUT the way this section is written drives me crazy.

For example, there’s a page full of art from professional artists. The quote in that page says this:

“FIG 2.3. It is not necessary for your drawing to be technically perfect. Notice the inaccuracies and so called mistakes in these famous artist’s renderings. Personal involvement and projection of the artist’s feelings is what we respond to in our favorite works of art.”

At least two of the pieces referred to where sketches. Sketches that when looked closely, you can see that artist was a good draftsman and chose to shorthand what he thought would work best for his drawing. It wasn’t “feeling” that made the art good.

Here’s my point. You don’t tell a kid who can barely write a sentence to write a Shakespearean play purely on “feeling”. Why then, would you tell a beginning student who is just learning to put overlapping shapes together to do the equivalent?

First master the fundamentals.

Besides all of chapter 5, the other chapters that I didn’t really like are:

Chapter 6 – Lesson 2 – most of this chapter
Chapter 7 – Lesson 3
Chapter 8 – Lesson 4

Why didn’t I like these?

Well, it’s where, I think, the book fails. As good as it is at getting you comfortable at drawing, it doesn’t teach the fundamental of good draftsmanship. It’s what I call an “artsy fartsy” book.

It’s as if the book is saying, “There is no right or wrong, as long as you draw it, it must be great art.”

This is a good principle when you’re beginning to draw. There IS no right and wrong. If fact, if drawing is a hobby, there may NEVER be a right and wrong for you. But if you want to draw for a living, or want your drawing to go in a certain academic direction, there is certainly a right and wrong way to draw a thing.

The sections in this book on shading…well they don’t really exist. Not that I would have had a section on shading in a beginning book.

And the suggestion to start a drawing with an eyeball and working your way around is just a really bad way to learn to draw.

Through the rest of this book, the author never once talks about under drawings, structure, drawing through forms, tone, and other essentials to good draftsmanship.

As good as the first half of the book is, it doesn’t actually teach you good draftsmanship. It becomes perfectly obvious as the book goes on, that the author doesn’t have the draftsmanship skills herself to be able to teach academic drawing. She can’t teach what she doesn’t know.

How to Use This Book

There’s a section at the beginning of this book that tells you how to use it. I’m not repeating that information here. Instead, I’m writing how I recommend you use this book.

This book compliments The Drawing Website really well. Especially the first few chapters and the first few lessons.

I recommend you read through the book. There may, very well be, many things in it that click for you in ways that my info doesn’t. That said, I’d give special focus to what is said in the first few chapters up to Lesson 2. Take the tests to see what level you’re at. Do the exercises until you can get to level 2 in this book.

Do ALL the exercises in Lesson 1. Then read and do everything in Lesson 2 up to the “Leo the Lion” exercise and stop there. DON’T do the “Leo the Lion” exercise. I wouldn’t do the exercises from this point on. It’s in fact, teaching you bad drawing habits.

By the time you get to Lesson 2 you’ll be ready to take things to the next level here at The Drawing Website. If you’ve done the exercises in this book and the exercises in The Drawing Website, you’re in fantastic shape. You’re ready to learn some fantastic advanced stuff.

I recommend this book for anyone who doesn’t think he can draw, or parents with children whom you want to encourage.

If my site is not giving you enough to work with, get this book. It will add to what I’ve already written and will give you more exercises and even games you can play to help you draw.

I DO like A LOT of the info in here, I just don’t like all of it. It’s definitely worth owning.

Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too