Children come up with wonderful imagery! I’ve had the pleasure of teaching kids several times, and it’s always delightful to see what they create!
Here’s a big self-portrait mural that Ms. Heigel’s students painted with me at the Otterbein Public Library:
It’s about them, and their interests – sports, games, books, pets, friends, family. Windmill farms and space exploration. Library books and school.
Here’s a lively space mural painted by some 5th grade students in Lake Village:
I’ve done children’s Paint & Party paintings with different themes – like balloons:
And mystical rainbow trees:
And parties where they paint flowers with Mom!
Now and then parents will ask me about supporting their children’s interest in art. Their child has shown a knack or has a passion, and parents want to know what to do to help them. Put them on the right path.
Well I have a bit of scandalous advice.
Here it is:
Let them be.
Let them paint, let them create and share, and just applaud.
And whatever you do, don’t fix their paintings. Not their cat’s asymmetrical eyes, nor its goofy tail. Let their bird’s stilted feathers be. Leave their wonky houses alone. They don’t need to be corrected.
Kids don’t need to know how to do it “right”, because the point of art is to use one’s voice. So they’re already doing it right.
That’s probably counter-intuitive, so I’ll give you an example.
Look at these self-portraits, all of them celebrated. All of them different. What would have happened if they’d been “corrected”? What would “correct” even be?
“Okay” you might say. “But those eyes in my kid’s painting are clearly off! What about that?”
I still say to let it be. Enjoy the distortion, the unique effect.
Let them learn how to draw correctly in high school, or college. Let them develop their voice, first. They can learn how to use it more accurately later.
It takes YEARS to develop accuracy. Seriously – years and years.
Yet for some reason, the vast majority of people who start off in art aim for accuracy first – and then give up. But that’s backwards.
Art isn’t like music, where there are definitely good notes and bad ones. Inspiration is the vehicle in art; accuracy is only one method.
Some of the great artists mastered accuracy first – some of them. Like Picasso, he had accuracy down when he was 9 years old.
But plenty of successful, famous artists didn’t master accuracy first. Either they learned it later, or they never learned it at all.
And plenty of them had to “unlearn” lessons from school before they could develop their voices anyway! Look up Georgia O’Keeffe, she talked about it. Helen Frankenthaler, too.
Here’s an example.
Shane Wolf is a super-accurate artist. And very successful – he sells in Paris and New York, etc. We have a mutual friend, so I went to Shane’s life drawing workshop a couple of years before he became famous.
Here’s the kind of thing he can do:
When do you suppose he learned to paint in that manner?
Not elementary school – or high school – or even college.
Shane finished college with a degree in graphics and was designing skate boards when he took a notion to really learn how to paint and started studying again at an Italian academy when he was almost 30!
I wish I had photos of his childhood art, because it’s probably wildly imaginative and wonky – like everyone else’s. The exaggerations are what make kids’ art fun!
And what is Shane doing now? Still finding his voice. Check him out on Instagram. Here’s his latest:
If you want to support your kids’ interest in art, take them to art museums and have fun exploring 🙂 Art museums are our gift to ourselves, our story of what it means to be a human being. Enjoy the many different voices.