Parents often ask me for advice when it comes to the budding art talents of their young children. They want to know how to foster and encourage their kid’s interest in drawing. I never know what to say exactly. I don’t have children of my own so all I can go by is my experience of once being a child who draws. And that was a long time ago. For the most part, I usually fall back on the obvious stuff – let them have fun exploring their creativity. Don’t be critical and don’t worry about a career path just yet. But now, thanks to Nintendo and Disney I can refer an actual product.
The kind folks at Nintendo were nice enough to send me a copy of Disney Art Academy for the Nintendo 3DS.It’s asmart little game that teaches kids of all ages how to draw Disney and Pixar characters. There are several tutorials that walk the player through the process of drawing on the little screen with the little stylus. You might, say, trace Mickey Mouse’s head in one lesson and color Snow White’s bow in another. While you are actually drawing in these early tutorials, the main goal is to familiarize the user with the tools. And it’s a surprisingly advanced set of tools that have been ingeniously streamlined for the novice. Brush options, layers and opacity are similar to what you would find in professional (and pricey) drawing programs such as Photoshop. There are lots of options to play with and discover. You might be tempted to skip some of the easier lessons but you risk missing out on an important tool.
What I really loved about this program is the basic skills it teaches. You can just play along for fun. But for the more serious young artist, it’s a fantastic introduction to the mindset of digital painting and illustration. Much will depend on the individual and their interest in learning how to draw in this manner. It can be a little frustrating at first and that’s to be expected. It really is trying to teach you a new way draw. The story format does provide some game-like context and structure but there isn’t a competitive element. Older kids might find this aspect a little silly but you can click through quickly. At first, I found the small screen and tiny stylus to be a bit of a challenge – even with the zoom feature. But for younger (and tech savy) kids, this shouldn’t be an issue. I adapted soon enough. And it’s the portable element that I like so much about it.
There is also a free paint mode which allows users to explore all the tools you learned about in the tutorials to make your own creations. This is one of the best features and really gives this program legs. Kids can return to the tutorials or move on to make and share their own drawings. Once they grow out of this game, they will be more than ready to tackle the endless options of Photoshop and other similar drawing programs.
Drawing and coloring on paper is something we all learn to do at an early age. Making the jump to a computer can be challenging. While there are similarities in the creative process, adjusting how you think about creating can be difficult- especially for kids who love to draw and do it often. Nothing can or should replace drawing on paper. That’s the most important skill above everything else and if your child grows up to be a professional artist, it’s a skill they will always need.
But for the young artist ready to go to the next level, Disney Art Academy is a great and relatively inexpensive way to introduce them to digital art. Kids today are so much more comfortable with technology than I ever was. To use this program along side the drawing they do on paper can make the transition a lot easier when/if the time comes. I remember trying to draw using MacDraw – an infuriatingly simple vector graphics program for the early Macintosh. It was tedious and difficult and I loved it. So, when it cam time to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I was familiar with the basic concept of the tools. That made a huge difference as I adapted to this new approach to drawing. It’s also why Adobe Illustrator is my choice of programs today. But those programs and other like it can be expensive. So, before you invest in the Adobe Creative Suite for your unusually talented 8 year old, you might check out this great little “game”. You’ll probably enjoy playing around with it as much as they will.
And even if they lose interest, they still have an awesome Nintendo 3DS to play with.
NOTE: Product provided by Nintendo.