book cover

Drawing Projects For Children by Paula Briggs.

Black Dog Publishing.

Reviewed by Julianne Negri


How would you like a drawing book that encourages risk taking in art? A book that emphasises process over product? A book that encourages experimentation within guidance? A book that is full of messy-get-your-hands-dirty drawing projects? In short, a book with smudgy fingerprints all over it? Well if these things tick your boxes like they tick mine, Paula Briggs’, Drawing Projects for Children published by Black Dog Publishing is the art book for you.

Paula Briggs has not only created a beautiful object with this book. She has created a welcome antidote to a world (wide web) full of outcome based children’s activities that seem to be all about the photo opportunity to display on whatever platform – blog/insta/facebook/twitter – a parent chooses. She says in the section aimed at the facilitator:

“For children to get the most out of drawing, they need to be encouraged to push beyond what they consider ‘safe’ (‘safe’ drawings are those in which we know what the outcome is going to be before we have even started making them) and to take risks. By doing so they will widen their concept of what drawing is and what they are capable of achieving.”

DP4K-JN- Review pic1

This is very much a gorgeous(smudgy) hands on book, divided into two sections – warm up drawing exercises and more in depth projects. So the only real way to review this book was to try it out. First – rustle up some children (fortunately not a challenge for me). Here are two I prepared earlier. Pepper and Wanda are active creative 7-almost-8-year-olds.

pepper and wanda final

The book is firmly aimed at children but without any dumbing down of language or “fun speak” or the sort of cutesy Dr Suess sort of language you often find with this target audience. For example:

“All of the projects in this book also use a huge range of drawing materials from inks and watercolours to graphite and pastels. Remember, great drawing experiences are not always about the outcome, but often about the things you learn when you experiment. So get ready to try out some new techniques, and make some wonderful creations!”

This tone generates respect for the child artist, for the materials being used and for the activity being undertaken. I read sections aloud to the kids first and we discussed some of the concepts – risk taking, process, not worrying about “mistakes”, no rubbing out etc. These are hugely neglected concepts in the world of a 7-almost-8-year old’s art practice. They are at an age where they lose the earlier wildness of creativity and have been firmly indoctrinated into school ideas of right and wrong and drawing like the person next to you, with a seemingly strong preoccupation on getting eyes and noses especially “right”!

While Paula Briggs suggests this book is aimed to be used independently by children, I found it does benefit from focused facilitating. And for kids this age? Fairly strong facilitation is required. Fortunately I had a background in art and understood the materials and requirements of the tasks, but it is written with point by point instructions, a colour coded idea of levels of intensity and a material list like a recipe and is therefore very accessible. For preparation we made a trip to the local art shop with a list in hand – lots of newsprint paper, various pencils, charcoals and pastels and some ink – and we were ready.


We began with some warm ups which were wonderfully fun and challenging. Just look at the concentration on these faces.


This “continuous line drawing” warm up was a terrific way to display process over outcome. Pens, paper, still life and go. The kids had to look at the object and draw it while not lifting their pen from the page. They were happy to keep trying this for ages!

drawing warm up final

Our second warm up was “backwards-forwards sketching”. This was a good way to focus on looking and observing while slowing down the hand and creating texture.



My kids are very physical and these drawing ideas are also very physical – hand-eye coordination, large gestural mark making and sustained concentration. We interspersed the activities with kicking the footy in the back yard to freshen up.

We enjoyed perusing all the projects in the book and the kids have ear-marked many they want to try asap. But the obvious “project” to undertake right away was the “Autumn Floor Drawing”. We ran around the house and street collecting leaves, seed husks, plants and all things Autumnal.

autumn box final


I found myself joining in and rediscovering the joys of charcoal and of delicate lines and shading in a way I hadn’t indulged in years. It was so relaxing, for me and for the kids, to play with the materials without any pressure on the result.

autumn3 final

Drawing Projects For Children, while not completely independently accessible to younger children, actually benefits from involving a facilitator as well as the child. I found that Paula Briggs language and ideas generate an inspirational and stimulating practical art experience. Through warm ups and projects she extends children’s idea of mark making and drawing into a new realm. It challenges children (and teachers and parents) to explore, take artistic risks and to discover the fun inherent in drawing when there is no pressure for the outcome. It is a book we will return to and from just one day of experimenting it has already inspired these two kids to observe things a little differently and to think more about how to represent their world through art.

Drawing Projects for Children is highly recommended for those who love messy art. For those who want to encourage careful observation, thoughtful mark making and inspire artistic processes. For those who understand that experimentation and sustained exploration of a medium is more important than a quick simple art activity that results in a picture perfect photo opportunity. Go get the book, some supplies, some kids and get your fingers dirty.





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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Destri from The Mother Huddle :: The theme for this month is Advice For Starting and Growing a Creative Business :: Stop listening to the advice of those that say it can’t be done, and seek the advice of those who are successfully doing what you want to do.

Destri :: The Mother Huddle


Davina was quite literally one of my earliest inspirations, and I can’t wait for you to read her advice. I introduced myself to Davina by email a little over four years ago asking for advice with my blog that hadn’t yet launched.  She sent me over 1000 words of sound advice without even knowing who I was.  It’s hard to find people like that these days.  What I love most about Davina is her passion for the family unit, her words always remind me what’s truly important and why I got into this creative business to begin with.  Enjoy!

About Davina and Her Creative Business

Davina Fear is a familyness adventurer. By day she helps moms rediscover that all they want, they already have. By night she builds forts the size of elephants, discovers her superpowers, lives a non-balanced life, and gives her husband 15 minutes every night. Her familyness photo workshop is changing mom’s lives, not just while they are behind the camera, but also in the everyday chaos of mom-hood. She blogs from her yellow house at


Best Advice I Have For Those In A Creative Business

The Day I Walked Out Of Cracker Barrel.

Over twelve years ago I went to a support group for parents of twins. When I arrived at the meeting the women were so warm and inviting. I appreciated their willingness to welcome me into their group.

Seated at the Cracker Barrel, surrounded by waffles and french toast, bacon and eggs, I was ready to hear all of the ways to manage having 2 babies in a couple of months. What followed was a steady stream of how difficult the next two years would be… I was going to detest the next two years. It was going to be so hard that I was going to wish for things I had never considered. Life was going to be hard. It wasn’t going to get easier until these two little monsters went to school.

Part way through breakfast I felt defeated before I had even had these babies. By the time the last bit of syrup and bacon had been consumed, I was mad.

I made a decision as I walked determinedly (is that a word?) out to the car: I was going to enjoy having these babies. I was going to make sure I didn’t see it as a torture session someone was putting me through. I was going to love every second. If someone asked me about what is was like having twins, I was going to be helpful, realistic, and hopeful.


Obviously, every second wasn’t bliss and I had hard days. There were times I would sit in my chair with two babies attached to me feeling worn out, and I would remember that day I walked out of Cracker Barrel. It would make me look at my babies longer, hold them closer, and remind myself that these days would pass too quickly. I would never again get to hold a baby that was only 5 pounds and a baby that was only 6 pounds, at the same time, ever again. I would think to myself, “This is my moment. Don’t miss it.”

Even though this experience doesn’t sound like advice — it changed my life as a mom and as a business person. I realized then that it’s up to me to make choices about how I am going to see my circumstances and what my responsibility is in my own situation. I can make my working experience and business joyful or miserable. I can make my family life full and beautiful or annoying and hard to get through on a daily basis.

The last couple of years have been rough. I’ve moved across the country, started up a new business, had a difficult time getting it off the ground, transitioned to building familyness, and discovered so much more in the process.

The reality is: it’s been a difficult road. The help I offer you: that everything happens in a way that puts you right where you need to be. The hope is: you are destined for something amazing. You’ll see it if you let yourself look past the yuck that you’re in and see the beauty. Everyday isn’t easy but I’m willing to bet that the good days outnumber the bad ones.

Now, years later, I still say that same thing to myself, “This is my moment. Don’t miss it.”

I can relate with this so much, as anyone in the thick of a creative business can I am sure. Thanks so much Davina for sharing! — Destri


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Destri from The Mother Huddle :: The theme for this month is Advice For Starting and Growing a Creative Business :: Stop listening to the advice of those that say it can’t be done, and seek the advice of those who are successfully doing what you want to do.

Destri :: The Mother Huddle

I am super excited to introduce you to Lindsay of The Cottage Mama today.  She not only embodies the example of “getting things done” — she makes things happen. I love that, and I am trying to learn from it. She’s so gracious to others in her industry, and is always ready to offer insight where she can. Since she has found great success in the industry I am branching into, I was really keen to hear her advice. It’s perfect for any creative business, enjoy!

About Lindsay and The Cottage Mama


My name is Lindsay Wilkes and I am the designer behind, The Cottage Mama, a boutique children’s clothing and sewing pattern company, the writer behind the Sewing and DIY blog, The Cottage Home.

When I started my business three years ago, in early 2010, I wasn’t given a whole lot of advice, but I sure have learned a lot along the way. I’m hopeful that some of these tidbits I’ve learned will help you along the way as well.


The Best Advice I Can Give You

1. Be naïve, it’s ok. I started my business originally selling children’s clothing and as a sewing / DIY blogger. When I started on the scene no one knew who I was. Who was I to think that I could go from nothing to something in three years? In retrospect, I’ve decided you need to be a little naïve to succeed as a creative entrepreneur.

To be honest, no one had ever heard of me, my blog or my business and a normal, rational thinking person might have thought that there was no way I was going to make a splash on the scene without having connections or already being out there. But luckily I am a dreamer and a believer and I have always believed anything is possible. And you should too because it is. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2. Set small incremental goals and celebrate each success. Success is not going to happen overnight. It’s important to set small, manageable, doable goals to keep you motivated and excited about your business.

When I first started blogging, I had one follower/reader, my mom. I can remember very clearly when I reached 25 readers, 100 readers, 1000 readers, 5000 readers and now 10,000 readers. I celebrated each and every one of those successes because they were a big deal to me. And the same type of things goes for my pattern sales. Don’t sell yourself short by trying to achieve something right off the bat that a person in the same business has already been working on for many years. As cliché as it sounds, just take one step at a time and be proud of each and every milestone you achieve.

3. Define your own personal style. There are many different designers that I admire and look up to for inspiration, but I feel it’s very important to find your own signature style that is uniquely you. You may not know what that style is right off the bat, but the more you create, the more you will discover what you like and don’t like and will ultimately start to define what makes you, uniquely you.


4. Find a mentor. When I first made the decision to transition my business from ready-made clothing into my current paper sewing pattern business, I wasn’t quite sure where to start. Luckily I came across someone who had already established their pattern business and was happy to help me get the connections I needed to start me off on the right foot. If you find a mentor that helps you along the way, make sure you pay it forward and do the same for others that are trying to enter your same field of business. You will achieve more success in your business if you help support fellow colleagues rather than viewing them as competition.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others. As hard as it may be, try to stay focused on your goals and don’t let comparison squash your dreams. It is very easy to get caught up in watching someone else’s success and it make you feel like yours will never be possible. Don’t let yourself do that. What makes your business unique is you and that is something very special.

6. And finally, I do not believe success is luck driven. Creative individuals who are successful make it because they work very hard. Yes, the timing can be right for certain opportunities that help things fall into place, but first and foremost, you must be prepared to work. Once success begins to happen for you (and how you measure that is completely up to you), you will see a snowball effect start to happen that will lead to new and greater opportunities!

Thanks so much to Lindsay for taking the time to share her advice with us today. She has a few big things in the works right now, so be sure to keep an eye out on her blog and shop.


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Destri from The Mother Huddle :: The theme for this month is Advice For Starting and Growing a Creative Business :: Stop listening to the advice of those that say it can’t be done, and seek the advice of those who are successfully doing what you want to do.

Destri :: The Mother Huddle

Tools For The Creative Business

If there is one list I would have loved to have when starting my creative business, it would have been a list of all the available tools for growing and sustaining it.

I have a few favorites I will share today, but really I can’t wait to hear yours. It seems every time I am talking with fellow creative business owners, they mention a tool I have never heard of.

Some of these you may have heard of, but I am hoping a few make you say “where have you been all my life?” like they did for me when I discovered them.

Tools I Use For My Creative Business – I include this because it seems that is the most common question I get… Blogger or WordPress? You (or your developer) can literally do anything you need on the platform, you have much more freedom, and from what I understand SEO capabilities are much stronger on WordPress.

WP Engine – This is the company I use for hosting, and I couldn’t recommend them more. I was with Bluehost to start and liked their service as well, but TMH outgrew their servers and we had to find a new home :). WP Engine has all sorts of great features, but here are my favorite – one click backup and restore, they update your site with new wordpress releases, they guarantee you won’t get hacked, and will fix it for free if you do, speed-speed-speedy, always ready to help.

Madmimi – I use this for the TMH newsletter, and love them. You can easily make a beautiful template that is custom to your brand, simple opt-in integration, and great support. I have not experimented with other email platforms, so I would love to hear your input on your favorite.

Kind Over Matter Printables Kit – this is a great ebook with templates for making printables you can use for giving to readers or making for sale.

The Ink Nest – Beautiful graphics you can use for free or for sale printables — just read the terms of service for details.

Outright – I just recently discovered this small business online accounting tool, and I am in heaven. You can link it to paypal, bank accounts, and it keeps track of all the purchases and incoming sales. You can even prepare your quarterly taxes on the site. Like I said, I am new to it, so I am sure there are many other things it can do.

Law For Creatives – Contracts, employment law, insurance, intellectual property, for your specific creative field.

Picmonkey – Oh the things you can do on Picmonkey. I use this platform for all my photo editing — I have photoshop but find it too cumbersome and much prefer the simple and intuitive layout on Picmonkey. Check out their blog for tutorials — love the one for making a transparent background for png files (perfect for logos and watermarks).

Etsy – You can find branding kits to set you apart, graphics for your Facebook page, royalty free graphics, and much more — just do a quick search.

With Etiquette – Royalty free music for videos — I was actually just introduced to this last night!

Alt Classes – Great online classes covering many useful topics. They are always offering different ones, so you just have to check in now and then to see what they have. I have taken tax classes, imovie for bloggers, and many more. What I love is the classes are taught by fellow creatives that know the business, and they’re only $15!

Passionfruit Ads – easiest way I have found to serve private ads, so many great features.

Okay, now it’s your turn! What tools do you use for your creative business? What online platforms make your work easier? Even if you think it is something everyone knows about please share — it may be known in your niche but not in another.

Thanks so much for sharing!



During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Destri from The Mother Huddle :: The theme for this month is Advice For Starting and Growing a Creative Business :: Stop listening to the advice of those that say it can’t be done, and seek the advice of those who are successfully doing what you want to do.

Destri :: The Mother Huddle

I have a special treat in store for you with today’s guest. AmberLee owns Ticket Kitchen Chocolate and is the founding editor of Giver’s Log. She is quite possibly the nicest person I have never met — but hope to. She is always generous in sharing her knowledge, and the perfect example that if you’re nice to people and work hard, you can’t fail.
AmberLee bio

About AmberLee and Her Creative Businesses 

I am AmberLee Fawson, mom of three plus one on the way (this will be my second time having a summer baby! bring it on). I live in a little country house in northern Cali and love it. I am also a chocolate maker and make gourmet Hot Chocolate on a Stick and other chocolate goodies, which you can find at my shop, Ticket Chocolate. I am a huge chocolate fanatic, in fact, I consider a good cup of hot chocolate to be a side dish, and nothing makes me happier at lunch time than a big bowl of greens with some Trader Joes croutons and a cup of Bolivian bittersweet hot chocolate on the side. And finally, when I have a free moment I like to read, cook, go on unhurried walks with my kids, or blog about my favorite projects and recipes at Giverslog.
AmberLee in warehouse

Best Advice I’ve Been Given

For me, when it comes to my blog and my shop, there are two kinds of advice.

The first kind of advice is just good business advice. I am always amazed at how much I have to learn, how much I am always learning in my third year of business and fifth year of blogging now, and I always appreciate a few words of solid wisdom.

I think the best advice I ever heard was from a podcast (Stanford’s business school offers the podcasts). One of the speakers said something like this: If you have an idea, don’t wait for it to be perfect before you launch it. Don’t tweak it and polish and perfect it before you offer it to your fans and customers, because who knows, your customers might want something a little different anyway. Just put something out there, a product, a blog post. Your early adopters or first readers will be your best friends and really help you hone in on what you do best.

The second kind of advice might be the advice I appreciate most. It is the advice from other busy moms about how to balance, how to make it all pay off and be worthwhile. There is really nothing like making deicisons of what pressures to put on yourself, of what to say to and what to say no to when you are a mom.

One of my favorite pieces of advice came from a friend, who is a mom of seven now and who runs her own business from home. She taught me that life is tricky when you are a competent person. When you’re competent, you know how well you could play every part in your life. Your pantry could be organized, your dinners could be delicious and interesting, you could be the world’s best room mom for your child’s classroom, you could show up with warm chicken noodle soup at the door step of anyone who needs it. But as you are picturing all this, you neglect to notice that all those things take not only competence, but hours. Lots and lots of hours. So it’s okay to let your standards drop a little in some areas, in fact, it’s often the only way to get your most meaningful work done.

A big thank you to AmberLee for stopping in to share her wisdom today. I told her that last bit could have been written just for me… well the first too!