Directed Drawing - SLO Classical Academy
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San Luis Obispo Classical Academy San Luis Obispo Classical Academy

Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

Semper discentes—always learning together.
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Directed Drawing

{photos by Michelle Dorman}

If you’ve walked into our library or any of our classrooms, you’ve likely seen the beautiful displays of student art hanging on the walls. Art is taught and woven into our program at every level, and our kids benefit from learning with a different part of their brains when they create art. 

In class, our younger kids often participate in directed drawing (or guided drawing), where the teacher breaks down a picture into smaller steps and guides the kids line by line through the creative process. It’s a wonder to walk into a Primary classroom, like the one above for example, and see a wall of “Leif the Lucky” portraits. They were clearly done together, yet each one is unique. 



Directed drawing is a fun, engaging way to build artistic confidence in children – they see their finished product and feel proud of their accomplishment. (“I drew that!”) If you ever find yourself wanting to do directed drawing with your kids at home, we have a few tips and resources to share with you today. Mrs. Fragasso, one of our Primary teachers, has the following advice on how she guides the kids in her classes:

I usually start by orientating them to the paper.  If I drew an invisible line from top to bottom, I would get a left and right side.  If I drew an invisible line side to side, I would get a top and bottom. Everything we draw is made up of lines and shapes the kids know (straight, wavy and jagged lines, circles, squares, rectangles…)  I try to break the picture down into lines and shapes and talk about angles, and size of lines. I usually start from the center and work out on a face, but you can start wherever makes sense to you.

Another interesting tip is to use a black sharpie, rather than a pencil. This helps kids not to focus on erasing or making something perfect, becase when they get critical then the left side of the brain is taking over, not the creative side. If you mess up, you just turn that into part of the picture. It also helps to use good quality materials, not because we have to have “the best,” but because it makes the whole experience more enjoyable and often easier.

You can take any picture or portrait and use the above tips to help guide your child through creating their own version of it. But let’s say you’re not so sure of your own artistic skills or aren’t quite up to guiding kids through drawing lessons, but they love to draw and want to draw more often. Thankfully there are always quality resources out there to help! 

Here are a couple of YouTube channels with directed drawing videos:

  • Art for Kids Hub – He has a website too, with step-by-step printables if you don’t want to watch a video, as well as helpful tips. His videos are fun because the teacher has a kid do the drawing alongside him.

And since we've been studying Vikings, here’s How to Draw a Viking Ship – this lesson isn’t as step-by-step, but many kids would be able to get the idea. This teacher has more lessons on his site as well.


You can always search Pinterest or Google for “directed drawing” or “guided drawing” and get more options, from simple to complex. 

There are also many quality books available to purchase, with step-by-step drawing instructions, such as the Dover How To Draw series, Ed Emberley’s books, and Draw Write Now books. If you have a favorite drawing book or series, please share in the comments below!

So when you’re looking for activities to keep the kids engaged over the upcoming holiday breaks, why not let your child’s inner artist come out? You might even want to join in and draw alongside them… it can be surprisingly fun and relaxing!

SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any of the above mentioned websites or businesses.

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