First – Happy Veterans Day! Thanks to all who are serving or have served our country. I have past and current family members who are honored on this day.

ed emberly

I’ve been BAD about updating this blog (and therefore my lessons) for awhile…  I won’t bore anyone reading this with excuses but will write that I’m doing a variety of lessons with all grade levels. As someone who gets bored easily, I have to mix up my lessons with the kiddos – all 36 classes of them. If I’m teaching a particular concept with one grade level, I simply cannot do it 6 times over with the same theme or subject matter. Only one thing makes me break with this pattern – and that’s when my kids forget some of the basic principles of art that I KNOW I’ve taught – preached it like a mantra as a matter of fact. One of those things is a secret that some artists/teachers never share (they didn’t share it with me for sure), and it can provide a framework for ANYONE to have the capacity to DRAW OR PAINT ANYTHING!!! The secret is this – almost everything is comprised of lines and shapes. Instead of perceiving an object as a complete entity, simply break it down into basic shapes and lines – and you can draw it or paint it. Period. Details come last. It is very, very hard for kids to grasp this concept as they are concrete thinkers during their elementary years – so no matter how I say it, teach it, it’s still lost on them from week to week. Last Tuesday I had a come apart because I asked two of my 5th grade classes to draw leaves I’d gathered and one of the classes absolutely FAILED, which means I’d failed as a teacher. They forgot, again, to break the leaves down to simple lines and shapes. Furthermore, I WELCOME mistakes – that’s how we learn!! Instead of attempts to draw realistic leaves, I got a bunch of ovals with square stems and veins that look like a math grid – AHHHHHHH!!!! After that class, I went directly to the library and checked out every single drawing book on their shelves and added my own drawing books until each table in my room was covered with a pile of ’em. Quite simply, drawing books show us those very same basic shapes and lines that can be used to draw/paint almost anything. For the past week, and I’m thinking of adding another one, I have taught this same concept to 36 classes – again. The sad truth is, I can’t permanently sear this information on their forming brains seeing them only once a week, and therefore it must be repeated, and often.

I discovered this profound truth in basic shapes and lines as a child. Growing up in the 70s, we didn’t have as much to divert our attentions as kids today do. My mom kicked us out of the house – and most of the time, that was great with us – until dusk. We played games, rode our big wheels, and really LOOKED at our environments – bugs, moss, trees, etc. When it rained, we were stuck inside and often took to drawing. We had books that we used until the spines cracked and the pages were worn and torn. Most of them were by Ed Emberly, and I owe my understanding of how to draw to him – not to any adult, teacher or otherwise. And (yes, I just started a sentence with AND) that is why I will use him in my art room today – along with a slew (sp?!) of other authors/illustrators…  My hope is that if some kids don’t get my mantra, then maybe a few of them will pick up the concept from those books – just like I did. Props to Ed – you rock.