Recommendations for 13 year old into animation/cartoons/anime drawing

Hey braincloud

How would you support and encourage a 13 year old kiddo who is into drawing but untrained so far? They are my foster kid and will be with me for a long time, and I’m happy to pay for classes or whatever. They are definitely interested in cartoons, especially Steven Universe, Over the Garden Wall, and Gravity Falls. But they tend to draw a blend between an anime art style and realistic portrayal.

I’ve already done the normal thing of getting high quality paper, pencils, colored pencils, etc. I think a class is a good idea, but I don’t have any idea how to find/evaluate a good one. I would like to encourage narrative comics or zines, I think this kid has stories to tell. They’ve been heavily discouraged to express themself in former, more traditional foster homes.

They are in a suburban school now with absolutely no art (or music) program, but I’m trying to move them asap to a better school.

In Portland if that helps. LGBT identified if that helps. I’d love your suggestions!

  • Matty

Without knowing the kid, it’s hard to say what you personally can do - you’ll be a better judge of what level of critical feedback .vs. uncritical encouragement works best. For my own kids, it was completely different for each.

As for professional instruction, I’ll recommend finding a local painting class, but continuing to support lots of drawing, not painting, at home. Lots of painters teach on the side at YM/WCAs and senior centers or community centers, or give private lessons. The reason I recommend painting rather than drawing classes is because a painter will give the important lessons - negative space, perspective and proportion, shading, etc. - without accidentally crushing the unique personal style that is developed through self-directed drawing. Painting’s also different enough that if the teacher is boring or otherwise suboptimal it probably won’t dampen your ward’s love of drawing.

Just my opinions, don’t give them too much weight - I’m both a biological and adoptive parent, but I don’t claim to be good at it, and my own artistic abilities, if I have any claim to such, were self-taught, so I have little experience of art classes.


Grains of salt with my words as well, as I was a constant cartooner all my young life, and still am today, but am pretty lacking in formal training and never made anything of it, despite dreams to the contrary…BUT, here were big things for me:

  • Find “Commissions” for them to complete to encourage a true finished product occasionally. I made four cartoon portraits for my sisters-in-law for Christmas one year, one of each of them as a child with their Chinese Ziodiac animals. It was the hardest I ever studied source material, the most drafts I ever did, and the most attention I ever put on setting and composition, and the most self-critical I ever was, knowing they would be actually received by someone.
  • I loved how-to-draw books like “How to draw comics the marvel way” they actually had really good figure drawing and perspective drawing lessons, and used my favorite stuff (at the time) as fodder to make the medicine go down.
  • don’t worry about their copying other artist’s styles, while I think @Medievalist raises a valid concern about overbearing teachers, exploring other artists styles through copying will only expand their eventual personal flavor. Like handwriting, your style can’t help but emerge between the lines, and once you’ve tried on a lot of looks, they all blend together. Any way that you can get them to be conscious of the decisions those artists made, and why they like them can only help the process (e.g. dot eyes for this character vs. detailed eyes for this one, etc…)
  • I actually prefer cheap loose leaf paper most of the time, and lower quality paper unless I’m doing a finished piece. It loosens me up a lot. I am intimidated by the value of good paper and the permanence of a sketchbook. I keep all the sketches I like in a file cabinet drawer in hanging files. Anything that is a sketch for a story, vieo game or animation goes in a project folder.

Commissions are a good idea. I’m going to search out a painting class, there is an arts center associated with Portland Parks.

Do comic studios ever have open houses or courses or anything like that?


It’s a longshot, but If you can get them into Da Vinci Arts Middle School I’m sure they would be in heaven. Other than that there are always cool programs going on at PNCA, OCAC, and Multnomah County Central Library(Call them! The childrens librarians there are amazing, they will be able to offer you much better recommendations). I’d check all of them out and see if they have any youth classes planned. I see you are already looking into Portland Parks and Rec, thats definitely a good place to start as well.


My daughter loves to draw and other than her art class at school, she’s untrained. Her talent has just developed because of the time and energy she’s put into drawing.

I think the first thing is always encouragement in the home. I think you can turn around their previous encouragement by providing it for them. Frame and put up their pictures, have them draw cards for family and friends from your family, buy them drawing pads and pencils to help facilitate their art, and maybe even let them set up a tumblr, deviant art, or instagram account (while reminding them about onine safety, of course and providing proper monitoring for them, etc). They can provide supportive communities for growing artists.

And I tend to agree with what @Medievalist and @HMSGoose say about “overbearing” teachers. Maybe look online for reviews about classes and see which ones seem to be supportive environments?

I think the core thing to do, though, is to provide support and encouragement at home. Do what you can to let them take the lead to show you what they need and try to follow that as best you can.


I wish we could try for Da Vinci, but we’re in David Douglas rather than Portland Public. There’s more Portland out on this side of 205! /East County Jealousy

We found an “Advanced Cartooning” class through Portland Parks that looks like a lot of fun. Emailed this morning for permission to use scholarship funds. I’d rather use them on this class than on the drum set there’s lately been talk of. A drum set areyoufuckingkiddingme

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We’ve definitely been posting and framing pictures. We have two frames that we can rotate pictures out of, and at our holiday party last week we let them set up a little “gallery” of their art. It was a hit!


Awesome! Parenting! You’re doing it right!


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