Inspirational Journal: Muriel Foster

This is one of my prized possessions. In fact, I prize it so much I repeatedly give it away and then go hunt for a new copy.
Muriel Foster(1884-1963) started keeping this diary in 1913 whenever she went fishing and, for the next thirty-five years, filled it with sketches, watercolors, observations and poetry. While she was a professional artist, this little diary was just for her and never intended to be shown. Her grand niece released it for publication as a facsimile decades after her death and it is the work for which she’ll always be known (if I have anything to do with it). You can find a copy or two of the book on abebooks.com but act quickly — I may snap it up first.

Re-learning to draw

jacks-parrotsMy boy, Jack, 9, has always loved to draw. He draws in the symbolic away kids do, inventing characters in his mind, drawings scenes and battles and maps and worlds. Recently though we have been talking about drawing realistically and from nature.
Last week, we began doing exercises from a great book by Mona Brookes, called “Drawing with Children.” The book’s method is extremely clear and simple and we’ve had a lot of fun working on it together. In the very first lesson, he drew in ways he never has before and, at the end, asked me when we could do it again.
When children draw, they are working things out, play acting, exploring and learning. They are probably being more left brained about it than adult artists are, working primarily with symbols that are not based on observation. Our society assumes that this sort of play should not be interfered with as it may somehow stunt their imaginations. Instead, there’s a risen a myth that children can’t or oughtn’t be taught to draw. When kids reach ten or eleven, they taper off with this sort of play and, for too many people, this marks the end of their drawing life.
Some kids persevere on their own, but against the odds, because they usually have insufficient instruction. It’s absurd, like giving a class full of children access to books but not teaching them to read. We expect kids magically to go from drawing symbols to seeing clearly enough and having the perseverance to train themselves to draw accurately. Some will figure it on their own, the rest will just lose interest. We don’t do that with driver’s ed, or swimming, or mathematics, or even music.
The teaching and the learning aren’t hard. At nine, Jack’s brain is a sponge and Brookes breaks seeing and rendering down to such intuitive fun exercises that he picks it right up. The system is designed to help adults too and Patti has been talking about starting soon too. I can’t wait.
If you’ve been procrastinating about learning to draw, try working through this book with a child (even two year olds can do it). The fun is contagious and it’ll light your fuse.