The present study examined the development of drawing expression in young children, especially the transition between intellectual realism and visual realism, by comparing what they drew with imagination and what they drew while looking at a model. Forty-five children (three age groups: 3-4, 4-5, and 5-6 year olds; n = 15, 16, 14, respectively) participated in this study. First, they were instructed to draw a lion without looking at anything (the imagination task). Next, they drew a lion while looking at a photo of a lion (the imitation task). We checked on each drawing for the presence of lion’s component parts (eyes, mouth, nose, ears, mane, head, body, four legs, tail, and color). In addition, each drawing was evaluated whether it seemed to lion. The results revealed the following: 1) Young children were able to draw more lion’s parts on the imitation task than the imagination task. 2) Four-five year-olds and 5-6 year-olds were able to draw more parts than 3-4 year-olds. 3) The transition from intellectual realism to visual realism occurred approximately between five and six years of age. 4) It was shown by evaluation that older children’s drawing had captured the more distinctive features of lion than younger children’s one.