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Using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes


Making the Abstract Practical

Here is the record of our homeschool journey into drawing, using Mona Brookes' Drawing with Children as our main resource.

My daughter Sprite was nine years old when we began these studies. She is a motivated artist who wants to hone her skills. I usually do the activities right alongside her.

My daughter now is 13 years old and still loves art. I credit her skill to an early start with Ms. Brookes' principles.

Drawing with Children

This book is more of an art education philosophy than an open and go curriculum. Although it offers a lot of great ideas and how-tos, you'll have to use some planning to make it work in your homeschool.

Drawing with Children


Elements of Drawing

Ms. Brookes explains that anything we can see or draw is made up of these components:

  • Straight Lines
  • Curved Lines
  • Angle Lines
  • Dots
  • Circles

So she begins her drawing instruction with learning to recognize and draw these elements. Nadene over at Practical Pages has a free printable for learning these basics. If we can learn to see things broken down in the individual elements, we can more easily draw them.

In Drawing with Children, each lesson begins with a warm up exercise using the elements. There are different types of warm-ups, so there's no need to get bored with one type.


One type of exercise is making up your own abstract piece of art with bold colored markers.

One person gives general directions which the others can interpret as they choose. For example, you may say:

  • Draw four blue circles anywhere on your paper.
  • Using a new color, make three intersecting lines that go all the way off the edges.
  • Overlap your dots with black curves.
  • Using any three colors you choose, draw sixteen curves inside a huge circle.

Another warm-up involves duplicating abstract patterns.

Looking at abstract patterns made of these elements and copying them later transfers into breaking down any image into the elements it is made up of and then drawing what you see.

Ms. Brookes says that you should "spontaneously use some kind of similar warm-up before each drawing lesson." The book offers some examples which you can copy. But you'll certainly have to make some of your own. Visit Donna Young for many free printable warm up exercises (such as the image here) that will keep you busy for some time.

A third kind of warm-up is the mirror image one.

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This is most challenging, in my opinion. You complete the symmetrical missing half of a shape. Visit my blog entry about Symmetry Sketches for more information and for some free printables. Donna Young's site has some mirror image practice pages too.


"Drawing is a teachable subject

and artistic talent can be developed."

-- Mona Brookes

In my reading about using Drawing with Children, I've found that many people consider the book non user-friendly. What are you experiences with this book?

When to Start With This Book

Ms. Brookes has recommendations for children as young as 4, but I think that this book would be best for children at least 7 years old. There is no upper limit. These methods could also be used for adults just learning to draw. And I strongly encourage you to do the activities alongside your child.

Beginning to Draw

lessons 1 & 2

From the directions on pages 75-79, we drew birds. Here is Sprite's finished drawing, based on the step by step directions.


Because she wasn't totally satisfied with her results, she made another bird, relying more on her own imagination rather than the steps from the book.


And lastly, she went down her own path, creating a totally different style of bird.


Using the directions on pages 106-112, Sprite drew this all by herself. She simply followed along with the step by step pictures in the margin. I doubt that she read any of the text as she worked on it.


Mona Brookes recommends having a picture file for inspiration and for subjects to sketch. Despite the feeling that copying from another source is "cheating," Mona reassures us that even professional artist use various photographs and the works of other artists as references. It's not cheating at all. We must first see what we are to draw.

This is a pencil sketch of a rhino that Sprite saw in a science book.

So begin collecting photographs, magazine ads, greeting cards, and calendars. We have found that our postcard collection works very well! Sprite is, like any 9 year old girl, a lover of all animals. So she enjoys browsing through the postcards to find an interesting animal to sketch.

This giraffe drawing is actually from a postcard:


"Be patient with what unfolds, don't put any emphasis on comparison of levels, and keep encouraging yourself and your children to simply enjoy the learning process you are experiencing together."

--Mona Brookes

Drawing from Still Life

lesson 3

We didn't really care for the still life selection offered in the book. I also felt that to copy something from a book was drawing from a graphic and not actually a still life. So I allowed Sprite to select some things to sketch. She chose a red bike helmet and some various toys.

This is her sketch:


Anything can serve as the subject of a still life. Here is a plush backpack that Sprite chose and her sketch of it.

Sketching can happen anywhere you go as long as you prepare ahead and take some paper and pencils. Recently my daughter sketched some dinosaur fossils at a museum.


Artist's Manikin - a poseable wooden form

I happened upon a great find at an Ikea store! Poseable, wooden artist's manikins for just a few dollars each! I bought two for Sprite to sketch. The idea is that you study the proportions and angles of the limbs and sketch more realistic human figures. You can even work on top of the model sketch to add in facial details and clothes. Here are a few of Sprite's sketches from her manikin.


Other Drawing Resources


Resources Online - for implementing Drawing with Children

  • Masterpieces Yahoo Group
    This yahoo group is devoted to art -- drawing and appreciation of fine art. The files have a wealth of resources for using Drawing with Children.
  • Paula's Archives
    A no-frills, no-nonsense website jam packed with ideas. Here are Paula's art ideas. She also hosts a plan for using Drawing with Children.
  • Donna Young
    Here you'll find another very straightforward website with a plethora of free printables -- lots of warm up exercises at many levels of difficulty. The image of the duplication exercise is a free printable from her site.
  • Art & Learning to Think & Feel
    This is Marvin Bartel's art site. You'll find plenty of food for thought on this rich site! His philosophy is similar to Mona Brookes'.
  • Encouragement for Using Drawing with Children
    Barb of Harmony Arts shares her thoughts on this art philosophy. Also included are some sample photos of her children's work.
  • Drawing With Children-At What Age?
    Barb answers the question when to start Drawing with Children. Barb also gives a series of her son's sketches through the years. It's a most helpful and practical post.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

— Picasso


Cat Series

My daughter is crazy about animals, especially cats, so she often chooses cats are her subjects for sketching. Here are two pieces she sketched on canvas and then filled in with oil pastels. (Done at age 11.)


These were done in her free time, without any prompting on my part. She did request some canvases, and I obliged by providing the materials she needed. Using real artist materials seemed to give her a real pride in her work and demonstrated that I value her creativity.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Reader Feedback

sdakin on May 14, 2012:

An artist friend of mine recommended using this book with my kiddos. I love being able to see some of the concepts etc. that are taught. Thanks for this great lens!

anonymous on October 19, 2011:


I used Mona's methods in a Junior school in Zimbabwe. The Senior school art mistress told me that I had sent her the best set of students ever! However the Junior school teachers were up in arms. They did not think children should be taught to draw, mainly because they wanted me to decorate their classrooms, I think. I was pilloried but the head supported me, but it was an uneasy experience at teatime to sit with these dragons and knowing how much the children were enjoying and learning from these lessons. I used the idea of 'no criticism' by putting up all the words we were not allowed to us on the walls of the art room and it really did draw out the nervous pupils when they felt safe.

anonymous on April 03, 2011:

Thank you so much for your information. I have been looking for Monart resources to use in my lessons and found your worksheets extremely useful. I have just found out about Monart and am excited about teaching it in my lessons.

JanieceTobey on February 14, 2011:

Thanks for sharing your daughter's art with us, and telling us about the book Drawing with Children! Blessed!

John Norman Stewart from Cottonwood, CA on November 27, 2010:

I really like the idea of homeschooling and your approach to teaching drawing is great. Thanks for the super lens. John

Barb McCoy on November 04, 2010:

Lensrolling this one too! This is such a great journal of your using the book...wish I could start all over again with my boys. :)

GramaBarb from Vancouver on September 17, 2010:

Brilliant ideas on this lens. Blessed.

sarita from Hisar on September 10, 2010:

Good job done on this lens...

anonymous on August 22, 2010:

Wow Jimmie: Very impressive site. Thank you so much for including a section for Art For Homeschool.

anonymous on April 20, 2010:

cool I like it

anonymous on April 20, 2010:


anonymous on July 30, 2009:

Jimmie, your page was helpful for me in finding info to teach drawing using this book. I've used the warm up pages off of and another freebie that has been helpful is this book, What To Draw And How To Draw It. It is for in the beginning stages when young children need to be copying step-by-step. If the link doesn't come through well, googling the title will get you the link. It is a PDF that you can download, look in the top left sidebar. Hope that is helpful to someone. We are really enjoying learning to draw!

anonymous on June 13, 2009:

We are starting our lessons with this book soon. I spent about three hours today with the book. I am excited but scared! We'll see how it goes...I decided today to wholeheartedly commit nine lessons (nine weeks) to this philosophy before I make any kind of decision.

Thanks for this lens; you've inspired me once again! :) Ami

anonymous on March 12, 2009:

Sounds like a fabulous book - I could certainly use some help honing my own drawing skills. My classroom kids are young enough though that they think EVERYTHING I draw is amazing:)

SusanFaye on February 27, 2009:

What a wonderful tutorial about drawing for all ages... It's fun to see actual results from young artists! I love seeing creative self-expression in action. Thanks

Barb McCoy on January 13, 2009:

You know how much I love using this book with my family. I wish more people would really give it a serious try to follow the steps! Sprite is doing a great job on her drawing.

Great lens,

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

JudyDunn on December 12, 2008:

Very cool. Some great exercises. I will be teaching drawing to teens starting after the first of the year. I might have to check out the book recommended by Lilliputstation. Another great drawing exercise, is to take half a picture, from a magazine, or what ever...and then fill in the other half. It gives you a place to start, but you have to fill in much of it with your imagination.

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on December 12, 2008:

Loved this lens. Of course, being an artist, I am somewhat biased.

LilliputStation on November 13, 2008:

I ordered Drawing With children many years ago and my mother-in-law has been using it to teach the children. She starts when they are four and they are all doing really good. My two youngest are actually having their first lesson this afternoon. I don't know what we'll do after we move. I guess I will have to come back here for ideas so I can teach them myself.

In case you didn't know, this book actually has a sequel called "Drawing With Teens and Adults."

Debbie from England on November 11, 2008:

I'm sure Sprite is a budding artist! I use 'Drawing on your emotions' with some of the children I work with and drawing gives children ways to express themselves when words often fail them. 5* for you and one of my special gold stars for Sprite!

Patricia on November 11, 2008:

What cool drawings! My girls draw. I did a lens of their artwork. I love this lens and am going to lensroll it to theirs- Creative Artists

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