Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Miss Dora learns to Draw

I have a small collection of antique-ish drawing books for kids, my favorite by far being "What To Draw and How To Draw It" by E. G. Lutz. Everything about this book pleases me. The title alone is wonderful - it sounds like you've got a whole career plotted out for you in this one slim volume! It's full of those drawing diagrams that give you a step-by-step path for drawing whatever it is you need to draw. Here's a beautiful example:

They tend to leave a step out between the next to last and the last drawing - that step would probably look something like this:

(learn to draw)

I've often thought that a kid that takes these things seriously must get awfully frustrated awfully fast. But I love 'em.

One of the many things that makes E. G. Lutz's book one of the best in this genre is that he's pretty upfront about the fact that he's really not teaching you everything you need to know. On page 3 of the book you find this:

He scatters beautiful little images like that throughout the book. It's wonderful.

But, anyway, after the previous post, I was thinking about what it must have been like to do schoolwork with a dip pen. Besides the invitation to chaos that inkwells must have been, the daily practice of training your hand not to make a mess with that tool must have had some side benefits. I noted down below that I think our handwriting has gotten collectively worse due to the nature of the tools we use these days. The fact that they're so easy to write with is great, but maybe we've lost a little something by not being forced to work with a more demanding instrument.

I'm just wondering - if the person who wrote Miss Dora in 1910 might have found making this drawing:

a little easier than a kid today who doesn't have such wonderful control over a pen?

That "how to draw a bird" diagram is one of the really nice ones, by the way. Making these drawings is a lot of fun, actually, as long as you can set aside anything you've ever been taught about drawing and just enjoy it.

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