Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Art at our House: Super Heroes

When my son was about 6 years old, he became frustrated when trying to draw human figures and asked me to teach him how to draw them better. I gave him some lessons and tips found in Mona Brook's Drawing with Children. (If you are new to my blog, I am a huge fan of the "Monart" method and highly recommend it, especially if you are uneasy with your drawing skills, but want your children to learn to draw.) 

Brooks divides the body into a series of circles and tubes that make body parts easier to "see". She does the same with the head and neck and then gives helpful tips and examples of how to position facial features in kid-friendly language and illustrations. 

Well, after those short lessons, my son, who had drawn mostly animals before, started drawing all kids of people - real ones, characters from films and more than a few made-up ones. These days he is into super heroes. So, we have sketchbooks and literally reams of paper filled with drawings of super heroes.

This is "Sonnemensch" ("Sun Man"), one of his made-up super heroes.
Sonnemensch harnesses energy from the sun and puts it to useful purposes. 

At first I was a bit uneasy about his preoccupation with super heroes and wondered if we were exposing him to too much pop culture. "Wouldn't he be better off drawing more plants, animals and trees?" I thought. But apparently, he is just doing what comes naturally to boys aged 8-10. (He's 8 as of this writing.)  Renowned art educators Betty Edwards and Viktor Lowenfeld write this in Creative and Mental Growth about what they term "The Stage of Complexity": "At nine or ten years, children try for more detail, hoping to achieve greater realism, a prized goal. Concern for where things are in their drawings is replaced by concern for how things look-- particularly tanks, dinosaurs, super heroes, etc. for boys . . . "

Almost the entire Marvel Universe on one sheet of paper.

And Craig Roland, an art professor at the University of Florida, writes in Young in Art that " . . .while many children simply copy their favorite super heroes and comic-book characters, some also invent their own characters and narrative plots  . . .  Rather than discourage such creative activity, teachers and parents should take full advantage of children’s fascination with popular culture and use it to develop their drawing abilities beyond the most basic level." 

So, my sweet child is right on schedule and I can relax a little. And admire the amazing developmental steps that he is making: )


  1. Thanks, Sheila - I found this very helpful. I've passed it on to my husband, the artist in the family, who has been drawing icons with our son. I found the "Sun Man" striking. It reminded me of an early Christian icon of Jesus, depicted as Apollo (perhaps to disguise the fact they were Christian?).

    1. I will definitely have to find a picture of that icon. Sounds very interesting. Would also love to see the icons that your husband and son have been drawing!

  2. Hi Sheila, My son (now 16) could have drawn the beautiful marvel universe page you posted. He loved superheros and drew them for years. This post really took me back! (Incidentally, his next several years were spent drawing sports hero in uniform on the field! You may still have that to look forward to!).

    1. That's so wonderful to hear that your son loved drawing super heroes, too! I'll be looking forward to the sports phase, too.: )