Archive for August 17th, 2007

Amazing Art with Mark Kistler

August 17, 2007 @ 7:29 am | Filed under:

I’ve written before about how much Jane has enjoyed working through the drawing lessons in Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad. When I saw that Mark Kistler himself was offering a summer art camp right here in San Diego, I jumped at the opportunity.

"Hey, Jane," I said, ever so casually, "would you be interested in taking an art class with Mark Kistler?"

"WHAT??????!!!!!!!!!!!" she shrieked, puncturing my left eardrum. (I think I counted the number of exclamation points correctly, but there may have been more.) "REALLY????!!!!" :::pop:::: There went my other eardrum.

"I take it that’s a yes?"

I couldn’t hear her response, but fortunately I have learned a lot of sign language. I interpreted the jumping-up-and-down and maniacal grinning as a yes, and signed her up.

On Day Two of the camp, Rose demanded to know why she wasn’t part of this experience. She fit the age range, so I’m not really sure why I didn’t think to sign her up as well. Perhaps my powers of thought were thrown off by the shrieking and the ruptured eardrums and whatnot.

Happily, Day Two was "Bring a Friend Day," so I was able to sign Rose up for the rest of the week-long camp.

We could have signed up for two sessions—"Draw! Draw! Draw!" and "Beyond Pencil Power"—but I had some scheduling conflicts with the larger chunk of time, so we (to the children’s disappointment) limited our participation to Draw! Draw! Draw!, a one-hour session five days in a row.

They have had the most fabulous time.

They love Mark Kistler. He’s a great guy, every bit as engaging and funny as his books. My girls love his sense of humor and his energy. They come out of class full of laughter and stories—and the drawings, my word, the drawings.

Mark teaches the basics of 3-D drawing. His style is cartoonish, which appeals to the kids. His technique is rock solid, and the concepts they have learned will serve them well for a lifetime of drawing: foreshortening, shading, finding where light would hit the object you are drawing. The kids walked out of the very first class with impressive and delightful drawings. They are thrilled. They are bubbling over with excitement. They are distraught because today is the last day of class.

Never fear!, I told them. We can take Mark Kistler home with us. Of course we already have the cherished copy of Draw Squad, and now (thanks to a little bartering action, heh heh—Mark has a young daughter who is just the right age for Little House) we have his Imagination Station book as well, along with a couple of his drawing-lesson DVDs, which contain episodes of Mark’s popular PBS show of the same name.

And then there’s his website, which is loaded with good stuff.  You can download art lessons and even sign up for Mark’s online drawing school. There are some free lessons to give you a taste of how it works. It’s a nifty format, with animations to walk you through each step.

My girls couldn’t wait to try out the new DVDs, and I have to tell you, I was blown away by the drawings Beanie—six years old, you know, and the only one who did NOT attend Mark’s workshop (next year, I promised her, if he offers the camp here again)—produced after watching the show: a whole page of 3-D cartoon ghosts chasing each other around.

My point being: Mark’s methods are highly effective, probably because they are so much fun. I only wish I could sign up for the class myself next year. (Actually, parents can sit in on the classes for free, and there’s a kids-and-adults mixed session in the evenings. I couldn’t swing it, what with the baby and the toddler, but the opportunity was there.)

I’ll just have to content myself with watching the DVDs. These kids are having too much fun. I’ve got to get in on the action.