Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review of Simply Draw from Timberdoodle



Like many homeschooling moms, there are some subjects I love to teach my children (history! grammar!) and others I sort of, well, dread (art). Needless to say, then, when I am given the opportunity to consider an art curriculum of any kind, I jump at the chance, particularly if the art program is an actual hands-on, learning to create art program. If left to my own devices, I would be more than happy for my children just to study an artist in the context of his historical time period and to look at some of his major works. How wonderful it would be if they could actually create art, though! That talent is one that completely eludes me!

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Timberdoodle, I was given the opportunity to review the combination book and software drawing program Simply Draw. In exchange for my honest assessment of the program, Timberdoodle sent me the drawing package free of charge. To be honest, it was terrific that they did so, because as much as I want my children to be able to draw, I am so intimidated by the prospect of teaching them, that I am far more likely to spend my money on anything except art. I never know where to begin!

Other art-phobic moms (and even art-savvy moms!) rejoice! Simply Draw is a wonderful place to begin teaching your children to draw! Bob Parsons, the creator of this fun and innovative program, does all of the work for you. Beginning at the very beginning, with the proper technique for sketching lines, Parsons uses perfect camera angles on the included DVD, as well as a calm and pleasing instructional manner, to skillfully guide your children through the world of drawing. Using a building blocks technique, wherein each skill builds on the previous skills learned, Parsons creates sketchers out of even the most reluctant and un-naturally talented artists.



Each of my four children, ages 5-9, used Simply Draw. While the program is recommended for children from grades 3 and up, all of my children had fun with it. My oldest daughter (9) definitely had the most success, and her work certainly reflected the fact that the older a child is, the steadier her hand will be when she sketches. Even so, my 5 year-old twins learned some solid sketching techniques, and they loved being part of the group that got to evaluate the program. I would concur with Mr. Parsons' assessment, though, that 3rd grade is an ideal age to begin this program. Moms should feel confident that their youngers will have a good time following along, however!




The strengths of the Simply Draw program are many. The combination of a 200 page instructional book and a 3+ hour DVD make for a compelling pairing. Children with different learning styles will all find something that will work for them in this set. If for some reason one does not have access to a DVD player (the disc is to be played on the computer, and not on the TV), the book is an excellent instructional aid on its own. A child progresses very quickly from sketching lines to drawing fun and fantastic figures. Boys especially should be drawn to the quirky and crazy Bob Parsons creations included in the book. I took great delight simply in paging through the book, even absent any drawing!

At $37.50, the set may seem at first glance to be on the expensive side for many homeschooling families. It is true that you can find other art programs for less. In fact, for a dizzying variety of possibilities, just try to resist a purchase from Timberdoodle's art store! After some thought, though, I do believe that the price for Simply Draw is a fair one. Comparisons to Mark Kistler's books are almost inevitable, as some of the instructional techniques are similar. With Simply Draw, though, the included DVD makes a real difference. Especially for art-challenged moms, being able to see an artist execute the sketching steps helps tremendously with the ability to perform those same steps. Although the book that is included in this set is a great stand-alone resource, the DVD is what makes this set stand out!



If you know all there is to know about SPLs and the eight key words to explain drawing concepts, then you probably don't need Simply Draw. If, like me, however, Single Parallel Lines and foreshortening and its friends are strangers to you, then I would encourage you add Simply Draw to your curriculum lineup today!



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