Art Education – Illustrative Drawing

Long before the child can express himself through writing, he can tell stories by means of pictures. Given a pencil and a piece of paper, a three-year-old child will make a series of marks which, unintelligible as they may seem to the observer, are full of meaning to himself. It is not necessary to teach him to express him-self in this way, he does it naturally; but at first his pictures are symbols significant only to himself. It is the province of the teacher to help him to express himself more clearly, not by imposing ready-made ideas upon him, but by helping him to get clearer mental images and encouraging him to advance from symbols to pictures that really look like the thing he wishes to represent.

In Form I classes the Illustrative Drawing should be spontaneous, the aim being to get the pupil to express himself with perfect freedom. In each succeeding Form greater accuracy should be expected, but accuracy must not take the place of vivid life and action.

In taking up Illustrative Drawing the teacher should look first for life and action, next for better form, then for proportion and composition, finally, for perspective. Not until Form IV need these drawings be criticised for perspective, although very young pupils may be taught to observe differences in appearance due to change of position or to distance and they often represent them surprisingly well.

The study of good pictures may be of great assistance to the pupil in expressing his thoughts, if he is made to realize that the artist in his picture is trying to tell us a story in the simplest and most beautiful way possible to him.

No hard and fast rule can be given as to what mediums to use in Illustrative Drawing. Charcoal, being the most responsive, is undoubtedly the best medium with which to begin this work in any Form. It is desirable, however, to aim at having the pupils’ most finished illustrations done in black or coloured crayons in Form I; in brush and ink or water-colours in Forms II and III; and in flat washes of water-colour over pencil in Form IV.

In Form I classes illustrative and imaginative drawing should be used constantly, not necessarily in the drawing period, but in connection with everything the pupil is taught. It is a means by which he impresses the knowledge he is gaining every day through his language, reading, and number lessons and is also an evidence as to whether his concepts have been correct or otherwise.

Later on in the pupil’s school life, as his power over language develops, Illustrative Drawing becomes less and less a necessary means of self-expression; but it never ceases to be to him a valuable mental training, because it tends to crystallize his thoughts into definite and systematic shape, and therefore should not be neglected at any period of his school life.