Book review: Drawing Projects for Children by Paula Briggs

Published by Black Dog Publishing Ltd

The chunky (8’’x10’) Drawing Projects for Children is a beautiful book: 144 pages, printed on thick paper, with colour illustrations on nearly every page. Well done designers Freddy Williams and Vanessa Wong! It is robust both in content and presentation, a book that will be of use for a long time. Black Dog, the publishers, claim to take a daring, innovative approach to our titles, to maintain high production values and authoritative content and to produce books that challenge, provoke and entertain. There is much here to inspire children to develop their love of drawing, to stimulate them and to engage them. This is not merely a ‘how to do it’ book: it is also ‘how to think about it’.

The book is in three main parts:

• Materials, drawing surfaces and faciltators’ notes
• Warm ups
• Projects

At first, my heart sank when the book started in the traditional way with a section on materials and equipment. Thankfully, it was very short and practical, so that advice on materials and drawing surfaces did not intimidate. I had been confused at first whether the book was for children or adults. Although the reader is addressed as ‘you’ and the projects are for children, the language seemed appropriate for an adult reader. All was made clear in the facilitators’ notes: the projects are for children, but there is an expectation that there will be an adult facilitator – teacher, parent or carer.

The section on warm ups provided a range of prompts for children to start drawing: exploring line, shape, tone, texture and rhythm to create different kinds of marks that could be manipulated in a variety of ways to create drawings.

The 26 projects vary in complexity and difficulty. Many are based on drawing from observation such as moving water and natural form. Some are prompted by experimenting with marks and materials. Some are concerned with drawing from imagination, such as animal cartoon characters. Some are about storytelling. Others bring new excitement to the activity, such as drawing by torchlight, making carbon paper prints or drawing on plaster. Some drawings come off the page and are developed in 3D. Some drawings turn into books.

Teachers, parents and other facilitators will welcome this book, chock full of ideas for drawing activities. They will also appreciate the explanations, instructions and advice that will help them support children’s efforts. I particularly valued explanations as to the purpose of each drawing activity. What was the intention? What might children experience? What might they explore – ¬ a material, a technique or a concept? What might they learn as a result? This book is not just about learning to draw: it is about drawing to learn.

All the advice is sound, based on Paula Briggs’s long experience of working with her colleague, Sheila Ceccarelli, in AccessArt, to support children and teachers. The projects have been trialed and tested at drawing workshops in Grantchester. They are transferable to other situations and other age groups – secondary students would benefit from exploring many of the activities. They have the potential to inspire young people and build their confidence and competence in drawing.

The whole tone of the book is about enabling children to experiment and take risks so that they are encouraged to push beyond what they consider ‘safe’ (safe drawings are those in which we know what the outcome is going to be before we have even started making them). This is such a relief when teachers and children in schools are being constrained and mis-directed by inappropriate assessment procedures and ways of valuing children’s work.

Prehaps the author should have the last word. One thing I am certain of is that we need to raise our expectations of the level of artwork children are capable of making. We need to give children access to more materials, more time and space, provide more focused support, and we need to feed them with projects to give them a reason to explore further. In return, they will demonstrate how fundamentally important drawing is to us as human beings, and they will reward us with the most beautiful, eloquent and remarkable drawings.

Eileen Adams

Paperback, colour:
ISBN: 9781908966742
(14.95 RRP)

Purchase the signed copies direct (UK only)

13 Apr 2015