As We See It

So often when children draw, they draw from their imagination.

elephant in pajamas

Like elephants in pajamas,

olivia and me, with cheese

or royal mice (a gift from my little artist friend, Olivia).

Sometimes they draw things from experience,

her mermaid

such as a synchronized swimmer's ballet leg, performed by my synchronized swimmer hundreds of times.

When Lori of Camp Creek Press began posting observational drawing art lessons back in February 2008, I jumped right in. For Valentine's Day, I bought my kids (and myself) a sketchbook, just for observational drawing. We sketched a few times, but my kids weren't thrilled about our little lessons.

Our interest in observational drawing was rekindled when George brought home a dead Io moth found in a parking lot one day.

Io moth

Rather than all of us sitting down at once, I set up a comfortable drawing area in the living room, with the moth in the middle and the sketchbooks around it, and encouraged my kids to sit down when they had a chance and draw a picture of the moth.

This seemed to work much better than our previous attempts at observational drawing.

little sketchbooks

For our recent Neighborhood Math and Science meeting, I brought a basket of ordinary objects from around the house and made each of the children a little sketchbook out of card stock and blank paper. I heard a lot of "I can't draw that!" comments, but eventually they were drawing.

toy horse

Some children spent the entire time working on one single drawing,

his cup

while others tried to draw every single item from the basket.

aidan's carrot

I encouraged the children to draw the items from different angles, notice small details (like the little hairs on the carrot), think about scale, and observe the shadows around the object.

A fellow parent even joined the fun and sketched a few objects. He commented that observational drawing takes a lot of patience and concentration. I agree, and I think that perhaps observational drawing is a good way to develop such skills, especially if they don't come naturally.

I kept one of the small sketchbooks for myself, and plan to keep it close by this summer and fill it up with my observations.

my shell

I'm beginning to remember how much I like to draw.


  1. My poor little journal has been neglected. Will have to drag it out again..

  2. My husband has been doing this with the girls and Oldest is turning out to be quite the artist. He likes to doodle and no paper is safe around here! :o)

    I like the idea of everyone trying to draw the same thing and then comparing views. I may try this with my girls! Time to pull out the old sketchbook! :o)

  3. thanks for the inspiration.

  4. i'm only now for the first time getting over my fear of drawing. thanks for even more inspiration!

  5. oh gosh, molly. I love those little books you made. And I don't know if I told you this on the camping post, but we've got seven clipboards around here, too, that at this point the girls have all covered with doodles, like the old brown-bag book covers when we were in school...
    Whoever drew that carrot, tell them I think it's excellent.

  6. I think it's time we dust off our journals too. Thank you for the inspiration.

  7. We have had hit and miss with observational drawing too... I like the idea of setting it out for when they want to draw the object...
    I am much too likely to pick up my camera... I need to take my sketch books into the woods... Nothing like observing mom doing obervational drawing!

  8. We have been doing this on our favorite trail. We sit on our observation bench above a waterfall and draw the scene in front of us. It is a much larger scale, but it is a wonderful way to observe nature and the seasons from the same location.

  9. I really do want to pick up a pencil and observe...it has been so long!

  10. Kids' art is my favorite. I find it so inspiring and loved collecting my students' work and posting it on the wall. I think I need to pick up a journal, though, and sketch a bit!

  11. AnonymousJuly 17, 2009

    Thank you for reminding me how much I enjoy drawing- and how long it has been! I so love that carrot.

  12. I, too am inspired.

  13. you set up a beautiful provocation. :^)

  14. I've also always wanted to do more observational drawings with my kids--and have likewise been inspired by Lori at Camp Creek.

    Sometimes we draw together, and that works--sometimes. But I love your idea of leaving out the sketchbooks and an inspirational item. For when the mood strikes. That's brilliant.

    Have you ever seen the book The Private Eye by Keri Ruef? It combines observational drawing with looking at things magnified, and then coming up with analogies. What does the item remind you of? It's a really cool combination of art, science and writing. I'll bet you'd like it...

  15. I love it! We've been doing more observational drawing around here but I really need to sit down and draw alongside my sweet girls.


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email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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