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Understanding Art

Drawing - 5 to 11 Years

Drawing, in the sense of ‘mark making’, is a fundamental human activity. It frequently pre-dates the emergence of speech in young children. The use of drawing is not confined to art. Children are likely to be using their drawing skills in many different subjects. It is up to the teacher to help to develop the skill of drawing in an organised and deliberate way.

In all drawings a mark is used to ‘stand for’ something else. It may be an idea, something observed or the exploration of marks for their own sake. Drawing can be an economical and powerful way of communicating because people have an in-built ability to attribute meanings to marks and symbols. Simply draw a horizontal line across a piece of paper and it can represent the horizon dividing sky from the earth.

Drawing is a most effective way of encouraging children to ‘look more closely’ and to engage with the visual world. It allows the imagination to become more active and to make physical representations of what is in the mind, ‘seeing in the minds eye’.
Drawings are not only done on paper but is an essential part of the other areas in the framework, painting, printing and making with materials. This broadens the child’s repertoire and using a variety of materials and techniques can remove the inhibitions sometimes associated with drawing in pencil.

Fundamental to all drawing is developing control over tools, media and materials which will broaden the variety of marks and contribute to the growth of manual skills, hand-eye-brain coordination and forms of expression.

In the Art Framework drawing is being explored through the following forms:


Mark making:

Developing control over tools, media and materials, techniques and processes. Mark making and drawing exercises help children to increase their skill and understanding and will broaden their repertoire of marks and contribute to the growth of hand-eye brain skills. Through exploring line, shape, form, structure, colour, pattern, texture, proportion, scale and space children develop an understanding of the visual language, which is fundamental to the making of art.


Narrative and Expressive drawings:

These forms of drawing allow children to represent what they know, feel and imagine. Drawings can be based on reality or fantasy.


Observational drawings:

Work aimed at recording what is seen. Drawings of this kind are relevant in many curriculum areas and help children to ‘learn to see’ by ‘looking more closely’ and analysing the world around them, as well as communicating to others.


Illustrative drawings:

Drawings used to convey specific ideas, scenes, characters, instructions or information to other people. Drawings can also be used to show a process or to help in the development of ideas and solving problems.

Through these forms children will work on some of the traditional themes used by artists.



A drawing of a person, group of people, or animals.


Still Life:

A drawing of non-moving or arranged objects.


Land and Seascapes:

Drawing of natural and urban scenes and subjects.


Seascape Sketch 2 by Kyra Cane
Seascape Sketch 2 by Kyra Cane


Folio, drawing by Humphry Repton
Folio by Humphry Repton


Key aims of learning drawing are to enable children:

  • To have the opportunity to enjoy drawing freely in their own way
  • To be fluent in a number of different forms of drawing and to be able to use the appropriate form in art and other subject areas
  • To develop an understanding of the visual language and its uses as a means of expression and communication
  • To be able to choose the most appropriate form, media, tools and materials, techniques and processes for the task in hand
  • To know about and enjoy a variety of drawings made by other artists, contemporary and historical and from different cultures The emphasis in the drawing framework is on ‘looking more’ closely and how marks, lines, shapes are the synthesis for drawing an image or artefact. To develop drawing skills using the different forms and themes.

Download the full Drawing resource pack for more information and activity ideas.