Relationship Building

Teaching Drawing to Beginners (Ep. 254)

Today, art teacher Jordan DeWilde joins Tim to talk about his new book, 30-minute drawing for beginners. Listen as they discuss teaching students to draw, how teachers can feel more comfortable teaching drawing, and the work that goes into writing and publishing a book. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

To start today’s episode, I have a couple of questions for you to consider. How did you learn to draw? And secondly, how do you teach drawing? I’ve talked before about how I became an art teacher, because I had a terrible art teacher in high school. I loved art, but I didn’t enjoy the class. I didn’t want anyone else to go through that experience. That’s why I became an art teacher and we don’t need to dive into that extensively, but a big part of the reason I was frustrated with art and frustrated with my teacher is that I never really learned to draw. When I was creating art in high school, I had ideas, but I couldn’t put them together. I couldn’t make them look good because I didn’t have the skills. I didn’t know how to draw what I saw in my head. In college, I started to learn, I started to get better. I worked a lot at it.

And then in grad school, when I was getting my masters, that’s when I really started to learn. I worked incredibly hard, but got a lot of great instruction. I was teaching at the time and I was able to take what I was learning in my graduate courses and translate it for my high school students. I think that’s what made me good at teaching drawing. I had the ability to reflect on what I was learning and then I could take the concepts, the techniques, and shape them and mold them and present them to my high school students. I could translate that into the classroom, translate that into my teaching. The reason I’m telling you all of this is I think it’s worthwhile to think about how we first learned to draw and also how that affects how we teach drawing in our classroom.

All of that is a really long way of me telling you that Jordan DeWilde is on the show today. And we are going to talk about drawing. Jordan just published a book called 30 Minute Drawing for Beginners. It’s really interesting. It’s a cool concept for a book. I want him to talk about some of the ideas in the book and the process of writing a book. I saw him and we chatted about just some different ideas about how do we teach drawing and how much is that based on how we learned to draw ourselves.

I think the conversation will probably delve a little bit into how that worked for Jordan and how that translated into his book. I think it’ll be a good conversation. You probably know Jordan already, he’s been on the podcast before, he’s written extensively for AOEU and he is all over social media. If you don’t know him, feel free to go look him up, Mr. DeWilde on Instagram or Twitter, or anywhere that you’re looking for him. He even has his own website. But most importantly, he is here ready to be on the podcast again and ready to chat with me so let me bring him on now.

All right, Jordan DeWilde is joining me now. Jordan, welcome back. How are you?

Jordan: I’m doing well. Thanks for having me back.

Tim: Yeah. It’s great to talk to you. First and most importantly, how is the school year going for you? Can you just tell us what your situation is, what your teaching looks like right now?

Jordan: Sure. I think like almost everyone, teaching is a little weird right now. We just started going into hybrid. For the most part of this year, I’ve been teaching remotely and then now we’ve switched to a hybrid model. I’ll have students two days a week and then on the other two days, they join the class remotely. It’s this weird dog and pony show of teaching art, but we’re making it work. I will say, having students in class, as worrisome as that is with safety, it has been nice to make those in-person connections.

Tim: That’s really good. And then I guess the big question is the whole reason you’re here is that you just published a book. Tell me about the new book.

Jordan: I just published a new book called 30 Minute Drawing for Beginners and it is a drawing book, but I think it’s a little bit different approach of teaching some skills, but not necessarily teaching exact drawings that you just follow along step-by-step. It’s more teaching concepts, and then you’re hopefully inspiring others to practice and try to apply things they want to draw, really focusing on being able to tie in some of that stuff we do naturally as art teachers, but translating it to a book for beginners.

Tim: That’s really cool. I guess that brings me to the question, one thing I was curious about with your book, do you see it as something that teachers can use in their classroom or is it something that people use on their own? Who’s the main audience for this book?

Jordan: The target audience is actually adult beginners, which is definitely out of my comfort zone when I started writing this book. It can also be for students who want some independent practice or for those visual references of some of those steps along the way. I think as art teachers we’re really reliant on demonstration and showing the end product, but we don’t often remember to keep some of those progress drawings with the different steps from step one to the end of the project. And then for those students who really respond well to written directions, or respond well with actually seeing each little step along the way. I think some of those can be useful in the classroom, but the target audience is adult beginners, which is a little different.

Tim: Okay, cool. I guess I want to ask you then, like you said, it was a little bit out of your comfort zone because that’s not somebody you teach usually, adult beginners. Where did the inspiration for the book originally come from and I guess to follow up on that too, with your own experience and drawing and teaching drawing, did those ideas translate to the book? Did that help you come into play when you were putting all of your ideas together?

Jordan: Absolutely. I think as art teachers, we naturally want to create a better experience for our students based on the experience we had. We build on that and want to do a little bit more. They had this idea for a different book, completely different, and they thought I would be a good fit. They’ve followed me on social media and the original book was for kids, it made more sense it was going to be a kid’s book, and they asked me to do a writing sample and then they were going to show it to an editor and then the editor ended up passing on me. I got down a little, but I didn’t really think too much of it. After that we just started lockdown with COVID and school was shut down. A lot of things were going on.

It passed over and then a week or two later, they reached out again and said, “Hey, we’ve got this other book that we think you would actually be a better fit for. It’s a drawing a book for beginners, but for adults”. The whole concept was, there are beginning beginner drawing books out there, but they are either A, geared towards children. They’re juvenile in their content and how the warrants are written to the reader or they are meant for adults, but a true beginner feels like they can’t reach the goals they see. They’re just a little bit too advanced, even though it says beginning, it’s for adults. Maybe a beginner who took art in high school and now is maybe getting more of a refresher, but a true beginner needs some of those, really basics of drawing instruction.

That’s how it all came together. I really wanted to push for that, not making it, we’re all going to draw these specific drawings more and more. All right, I want you to be invested in it, just like we want our students to be invested in their projects, so let me teach you this skill, let me teach you this technique. But now you grab some stuff that you’re excited to draw at your house, or you look outside your window, or you grab a picture, apply these concepts to this drawing.

Tim: Okay. That seems really cool. As you were talking about that, I was thinking of a lot of teachers, maybe not a lot, but there are teachers out there who don’t necessarily feel comfortable teaching drawing. They struggle with some of the concepts, some of the skills like how to present them. If people are working with your book, are there ideas in there that transfer well to the classroom? Can teachers take some of these concepts and help them teach? Or if they’re established as a teacher already, do you think there are new ideas that people can get if they’re working with your book?

Jordan: Yeah, I think so. I’m teaching junior high now and some of these things I teach like value, value scale, applying value to three-dimensional forms are what we’re doing right now, that’s not to say an adult beginner who has never picked up a pencil and has always wanted to, they can still learn those same concepts that a sixth-grader would. I do think there are some things that translate the basics, whether you’re in 6th grade or you’re 35, getting back to drawing, still got to go for the basics.

My sixth graders right now, we’re doing drawing fundamentals. A lot of the lessons in the book are very similar, maybe in how I speak to the reader or the motivation. I do talk about these are 30 minute activities, they’re short little things that you can do to stay motivated. You’ve got a lot going on with your job and with your personal life, but you can carve out 30 minutes. Some of those things obviously don’t translate to a child or to the classroom, but the concepts of drawing fundamentals are still solid for them.

Tim: That’s cool. Sorry. Were you going to say something else?

Jordan: Well, since I’ve been marketing this and honestly, I’ve had a couple of art teachers who said, I think one said, “I’m tired of telling my art students that their teacher isn’t very good at drawing.” They ain’t got the book for themselves so they can feel more confident when they are doing these things. We know the basics from school, but if we aren’t actively drawing ourselves, maybe as it’s time to be brushing up on some concepts and just getting that confidence. That’s a big thing throughout the book I really want the reader to gain confidence so that they want to keep drawing and keep practicing because that’s the way we know that you’re actually going to improve.

Tim: Yeah, for sure. Now, I want to ask you also, just because I’m curious about this myself, if you can talk a little bit about the publishing process, because you mentioned that this publisher reached out to you on social media, but can you talk a little bit more about how that started? How you worked with them? What did they need from you and just how long everything took from beginning to end when you got this published?

Jordan: Sure. When they reach out to me, they introduced themselves as a data-driven publisher, which I had no idea what that meant. I’ve never really gone into writing a book or looked at publishers. But just checking them out, what their whole deal is, is that they do research ahead of time. They see what people are searching for on Google, on Amazon, what books they’re looking for. And then they do the research on similar books, similar titles, and maybe what’s missing in the market. If people are looking for drawing beginner books, adults are, but there isn’t really something for true beginners. They do that with all kinds of different books, different titles, a lot of how-to’s, a lot of recipe books and other skills, but they do the upfront what is needed for this audience.

And then, they had the concept for me, they had kind of a rough outline of what they thought would be good, but they needed me as an art teacher to fill in the blanks and come up with the activities and then write it so that it motivated the reader. I would say we started in probably April and then every few weeks they would give me two more chapters. They were like, “We want you to write on two more chapters”, or “we want you to write about this”, or “we want you to write some of the extra resources.” And then I would do the drawings as well. I would take pictures of each step. We’ve used different colors to show, okay, this was the first step. And now we’re doing the next step.

I would send them pictures of the sketches. I would write up the activities. I would write some motivation. We would be going back and forth once we got the changes back from editing. They would have notes and some suggestions and asking me to do edits. We went back and forth with that. I would say we wrapped things up in the summer before I started the school year, which was good for me because starting back this year worked out well. The design, the layout of the book, they kind of did that on their end.

And then they would send me proofs every once in a while of how it looks or questions like, all right, we’re thinking about maybe getting rid of this sentence or this is too similar to another one you had, what do you feel about getting rid of this and trying something else? There’s a lot of back and forth and then after the changes, everything pretty much came together and it’s come out in February. A long process, it’s been cool to see it behind the scenes a little bit, and to have the work dumped into different sections.

And now to see it all done after being removed from it for a while has been neat too. It’s been definitely a challenging experience for me, but worthwhile and something I feel more comfortable with having my writing and just taking on unknown projects. I feel like, well I didn’t think I could do that, but I’ve accomplished this. It’s another thing for the bucket list.

Tim: That’s great. Well, thank you for sharing all that. I think it’s interesting for people to get a look or listen into what goes on behind the scenes, everything that goes into putting that all together. And then just finally, before we go, where can people find your book and what is the best way for them to order it?

Jordan: This is available on Amazon. You can get it in print or you can get it on a Kindle, they have an ebook available. You can find that on Amazon, just by searching the title or you can find me on social media or my website at and I’ve made plenty of links that are easily accessible.

Tim: Awesome. Well, Jordan, thank you so much. Best of luck as this book gets out there into the world and thanks for your time tonight.

Jordan: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate being back on the podcast.

Tim: Thank you to Jordan. I will wrap things up quickly, but I will just finish by telling you to check out 30 Minute Drawing for Beginners. It can be a great use in your classroom, no matter what level you teach. You can use it to inform your own instruction, or you can just put it in front of kids and let them work out of there. Whoever’s interested in it, there are a lot of great lessons in there. A lot of great ideas and it will definitely help when you’re learning to draw. The instructions are clear, but it’s not just step-by-step, it’s not rote, here’s how you do this. There’s room for creativity, there is room for expression. I think all of that is really important. I think that’s what we’re looking for as teachers. Make sure you check that out and make sure you spend a little time reflecting on how you teach drawing and why you teach it the way you do.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you as always for listening, we will talk to you next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.