Inspiring (very) young artists

God is a God of words and pictures. He has revealed Himself to us through words in Scripture and visually in creation, and made us in his image to reflect his beauty both ways.

Some folks love words, some are gifted in pictures, a few are talented at both, and others excel through other means of creativity. Children are born with a desire to express themselves according to the talents God has given them, and whether you have a child who has a knack for drawing (i.e., you can’t get a pencil out of his hand) or a child who isn’t interested, there are some great books to encourage them. I have a son in preschool who has impressed us with his drawings since he was two, and this has led our family into finding simple books about drawing and art. (Yes, I am biased, but I’m still inspired.)

Harold and the Purple CrayonHarold and the Purple Crayon and its sequels are classics that should be available at most libraries. (Want him on a t-shirt? Right here for the kids and here for the moms!) Harold is a little boy with, yes indeed, a purple crayon, and I wonder if the stories are imaginative interpretations of those marks on the walls that inevitably appear in most homes where there are children. Harold’s adventures are based on very simple line-drawings, illustrating stories that are made up as he goes along, and I appreciate his problem-solving skills and how even his mistakes turn out well. I have not looked at the recent imitations in the form of readers, but I’m pretty skeptical how well they compare to the originals by Crockett Johnson.

Dog Loves DrawingA recent inspiring favorite from the library is Dog Loves Drawing. It starts with the gift of a blank sketch book, and doodling leads Dog into adventures with Stick Man and a few others. The story is simple and nicely told, with illustrations that invite closer observation. Similar to Harold, but with friends.

IshIsh and Dot by Peter Reynolds are very encouraging to children who are frustrated with limited talent. In Ish, Ramon loves to draw until his older brother makes fun of his work and he wants to quit altogether. Thankfully, it’s not the end of the story. Dot is the story of Vashti who is stuck in art class until she produces something on her blank piece of paper. Her encouraging art teacher stimulates her imagination in an unexpected way, leading her to inspire another child in turn.

The Art LessonThe Art Lesson by Tomie DePaola is a picture book about DePaola’s passion for art from childhood and how he worked out a compromise with an understanding teacher to draw with the class and on his own. Great book.

The Boy Who Loved Drawing is the biography of Benjamin West, gifted from childhood, and how he was resourceful in spite of his limitations (why the cat started avoiding him and how he acquired paint). Not much is told about his later life, but it’s a great introduction for young artists.

Drawing with Children

There are plenty of books on how to draw. Mona Brookes’s Drawing With Children: A creative method for adult beginners, too is well-renowned. I have not gone through her program yet, but it looks like a very reasonable approach to instruct not only my own supposed lack of drawing skills, but also with my boys, both the one who loves to draw, and the other who couldn’t care less.

Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing BookIf you really think that drawing is a challenge, one more I would suggest is Ed Emberley’s Complete Funprint Drawing Book. If you have a thumb, an ink pad and a pen, you’re all set!

5 Steps to Drawing Farm AnimalsOne series we have found at the library that has been great for younger artists is the 5 Steps to Drawing books. They cover just about every topic of interest for this age, and the instructions are very easy to follow.  Check 743.6 in your children’s section for these and other books on “How to draw.”

If my three-year-old can do it, so can I!

For more artistic book reviews, see our Bible coloring pages in our 2012 Bible Challenge, or our interview with kids’ book artist Kevin Luthardt on how faith and art come together for him.  We also have a neat interview with the author of the Action Bible worth checking out.

Do you have a favorite kids’ drawing book?  We’d love to hear about it!

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Megan Saben

Megan is Associate Editor for Redeemed Reader, and she loves nothing more than discovering Truth and Story in literature. She is the author of Something Better Coming, and is quite particular about which pottery mug is best suited to her favorite hot drinks throughout the day. Megan lives with her husband and five boys in Virginia.

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  1. Joey Espinosa on April 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

    My kids have loved the “How to draw” books by Ed Emberley. They are great!

  2. emily on April 24, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I agree, Joey. I love the Emberly books, not least because you don’t have to be able to read to use them.

  3. Betsy on April 25, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Great list, Megan!

    We have also enjoyed Mary Ann Kohl’s art books (First Art: Art for Toddlers and Twos was a HUGE necessity when I had multiple toddlers/two year olds wanting to craft away).

  4. Alane on April 27, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story of John James Audubon is an interesting biography-picture book showing the lengths to which Audubon would go to understand birds and to draw them accurately. Would you crouch in a hollow tree trunk with hundreds of birds?

    Marguerite Makes a Book tells the story of printmaking/manuscript illumination in medieval Paris. Lady Isabelle has commissioned a book from Marguerite’s father, whose eyes are aging. Follow Marguerite as she travels through Paris collecting materials for the book: stretched parchment, eggs for mixing paint, soot for mixing ink, a lapis lazuli. Then observe her skillful completion of Lady Isabelle’s book. Beautifully illustrated.

    Thank you for this article! My eldest son, now almost seven, did not take to drawing until this year. Now it is among his favorite past times. He is a precise and careful sort of boy and I believe very gentle, direct instruction (per Drawing with Children) set him on his way. Once he realized he could learn how to draw he hasn’t wanted to stop. Just a ray of hope for other reluctant artists!

  5. emily on April 29, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Thanks for the excellent recommendations, Alane. I love the Audubon book idea!

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