For budding creative artists, two excellent products are available. Silver Dolphin’s Fine Arts Studio Drawing, by Jim Bradrick, is a pencil drawing kit, while Chronicle Books’ Sumi-e: The Art of Japanese Brush Painting, by Shingo Syoko, uses ink as a medium. Each kit provides instruction for both beginning and experienced artists.
Fine Arts Studio Drawing combines instruction and practice in basic drawing skills with the imaginative spark essential for creating original works. The kit contains a six-inch plastic mannequin, ball-jointed and malleable like the human body; a mannequin stand; three graphite pencils; one terra cotta and one white pencil, along with a pencil sharpener; an art eraser and a smudger; drawing paper and a portable sketch pad; and a detailed instruction booklet.
The instruction booklet provides clear, precise instructions, focusing on drawing four basic shapes—cube, cone, cylinder, and sphere—and recognizing them in ordinary scenes and reproductions of famous works of art. Bradrick illustrates shading and highlighting techniques and explains their importance in adding depth, dimension, and perspective to drawing. He pays particular attention to lighting, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of both natural and artificial light in various situations. Guiding the novice artist through still life, landscape, and portrait projects, the instruction booklet provides increasingly complex practice in technique and tips for sharpening the artist’s eye for balance and detail.
The kit also illustrates how to use the mannequin to create characters in motion, place them in specific situations, and add emotion to their expressions. Movement and environment in animation and fantasy drawing provide the focus of Bradrick’s final project: imaginative drawing. He concludes with a brief summary of artistic movements through history and appeals to aspiring artists to give their imagination and creativity free rein.
The diagrams, illustrations, and instructions in the booklet are well written and include specific details about the artists whose works are modeled in each lesson. Recommended for ages 10 to adult, Fine Arts Studio Drawing fosters creative expression in the visual arts for gifted elementary children and older children and adults. Although the reproductions of famous artworks are a little difficult to examine on account of their small size, Fine Arts Studio Drawing is an excellent product for beginning artists who want to learn basic techniques and hone their observational skills, using them to create original works of art. Similar products in the Fine Arts Studio series include painting and sculpting kits.
Sumi-e: The Art of Japanese Brush Painting is another option for budding creative artists. Included in the kit is a beautiful 96-page booklet detailing the history of the ancient art form, the philosophical thought that applies to it, basic and advanced techniques, and explanations of the plant and animal forms traditional to Japanese art. Well written and elegantly illustrated, the booklet explains the tools, or Four Treasures, of Japanese brush painting, also provided in the kit: two ink sticks (sumi), inkstone (suzuri), three brushes (fude), and special paper (kami). It also explains how to hold the brushes for different widths and types of brushstrokes and how to vary the intensity of color.
Syoko begins the brushstroke instruction by introducing the Four Gentlemen—the four subjects that include all of the basic strokes: bamboo, orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum. Each lesson in this section of the booklet stresses practicing each stroke before combining the elements, which are to be performed according to precisely illustrated instructions. The next section takes the artist through traditional Japanese symbolic subjects for each season, using the techniques for painting the Four Gentlemen to create a variety of flowers, vegetables, birds, and other animals. In the final section Syoko details her own experimental techniques for creating forms of nature that express her personal philosophy. The booklet also contains a glossary of Japanese terms that apply to the art and philosophy of brush painting.
Sumi-e, like Fine Arts Studio Drawing, approaches artistic creativity through mastering basic techniques first and
then applying them to original creations. The integration of ancient and modern philosophy adds an extra dimension,
making the kit appropriate for gifted middle school students as well as for adults.
—Sarah Boone, MA
Sarah Boone holds a master’s degree in teaching and is certified in gifted education.
- Fine Arts Studio Drawing
- Sumi-e: The Art of Japanese Brush Painting
Both products are available from most retail booksellers and online for about $19. They each come in a sturdy, convenient portable case.