Monday, October 15, 2012

monday thoughts: art by kids

Full disclosure: My kids made this art. So I guess I should title this "art by my kids." Bias aside, I think it shows what's great about art by children that I was talking about last week: simplicity, color, directness.

That soldier painting might be my favorite piece of art in my house. Charlie made it in class two years ago, and we've been trying to get him to recreate the feeling—emotional, straightforward, pure of line and color—ever since. In the process, he's drawn a lot—a *lot*—of extremely detailed Star Wars vessels and Batman villains. So much for purity and directness. I mean, I enjoy Star Wars and Batman, but not as much as that soldier in the red hat. 

As for Tessa's parrot, nobody would praise its technical skill or subtlety. But check out that beak and that rainbow tail, and tell me she didn't capture the essence of that parrot. Tessa's parrot isn't affected by how she *thinks* a parrot should look, or how she remembers other drawings of parrots look. She doesn't know art history—the tropes and themes of other artists who have drawn parrots before her. She's not influenced by anything except the parrot (in this case, a photo in a book) in front of her. Of course, influence and art history are good things, but they can hold us back. They're noise and interference. They make us think we know less than we do. They make us question ourselves.

Tessa didn't have to tune anything out to draw that parrot. She just looked and copied. Her picture is direct and simple and confident, and any parrot I would draw wouldn't be nearly as parrot-y.

Meanwhile, the effort is the point, right? I'm definitely not an art teacher, but I do have a few words of advice for encouraging kids to make art. Go to museums, but make it fun for them. Fill your house with art that you love. Sign them up for a class. Look at what they make, and praise it. And good good art supplies totally matter—nice paper or sketchbooks, crayons (don't mess with a classic), gel sticks, cool pencils, color-changing markers. "Doodles"-style coloring books, especially the Taro Gomi series. These volumes are great for inspiration (and basic information). Ed Emberley's books have step-by-step drawing instructions that somehow manage to be funny with almost no words.

And now that I've gotten all earnest for you, read this for a good laugh.

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