I finally gave in and brought home a how to draw book from the library. I just knew Maia would love it and many of you were encouraging about the idea when I asked, even though I was (and still am) ambivalent. Here's one comment from Karen that especially hit home for me:
...When your daughter is drawing the same bird over and over, she is practicing, as if it were a song she wanted to know by heart. She is trying to master it.
Introducing your daughter to realistic drawing instruction is not going to limit artistic creativity, but increase confidence and natural ability. What is important is finding out what it is she wants to learn. Perhaps imitating her friends and wanting her own art to be more realistic are two different things? Perhaps let her look at a few of the books you were interested in getting, and get her opinion on what type of instruction she is seeking at this time.
So I decided to give it a try. I came home with Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces and she LOVES it. She's been drawing people and animal faces from it every day for the last week. At bedtime she asks if she can stay up and draw for a little while. And how can I resist that request?
The book offers step-by-step instructions on how to draw each face. Literally. It shows you exactly when and how to add the eyebrows, the silly glasses, the hair... By breaking it down, step by step, into shapes and lines, it helps a beginning drawer to see the parts that make up the whole and then to successfully create the whole without getting overwhelmed.
Maia is so pleased with her faces and so absorbed in the process.
I should be, too, yet I still have mixed feelings. I don't know why. I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed a book like this as a kid! Well, actually, I do know why. It doesn't feel creative to me. It still feels a bit like cheating. But! I'm going to listen to you and to Maia. I'm going to let her explore and learn in a way that works for her.
So guess what Maia is going to get for Christmas this year? One or two drawing books of her own. I'm thinking of these two (both by Ed Emberley):
Although if you have any other recommendations, I'd love to hear!