Thursday, August 09, 2012

New Kid Drawings, Appreciating Ella, and Why You Should Draw (even if you think you can't)

So this is one of the first compositions for my mini-book. This is one of the images most inspired by the photo shoot I did with my neighbor Ella and her friends. Ella came by the other day because her frisbee landed in our yard, and I was reminded of how much she inspires me. I love watching her play. It's hard to make this stuff up! She's the sweetest kid. I gave her a toy foam rubber sword that she really liked, and I remember when her friends came over she offered them the sword and used a paper tube instead, an unusual amount of generosity for a six year old. Then I had them play pirates and I took a ton of pictures.

Why Doesn't Everyone Draw?

Another incident with Ella, was when she found out I was an artist and wanted me to help her draw a birthday cake. I had in mind to teach her how to draw cylinders, but then once I got there I realized she just wanted to draw with me, and it wasn't about a lesson at all. Besides, I couldn't outdo her own birthday cake by a mile. This only reinforces my idea that giving a kid art lessons before about the age of twelve spoils what they've already got going for them. Kids have a wonderful natural sense of composition (up to about 10) and often use up the whole page in a way that older kids wouldn't think of. Older kids tend to be more perfectionists, doing little drawings in some small area of the page and trying to get the drawing "right." At least the ones who are declared "artists." At about 10 the "artists" are segregated from the "non-artists" and the rest of the kids give up on drawing altogether. Why is it that we assume kid's all kids will naturally draw while adults are discouraged from it? Why doesn't everyone draw throughout the course of their lifetimes no matter how much facility they might have, as a simple way to express themselves? There's no logical reason for it, but it's how our culture operates.

So it's always a shame to see kids and adults give up on drawing because they've decided they're not good enough. They feel as though they have to learn in some academic setting to do it properly. Really, the only thing you need to do to draw, is to draw. The act of drawing isn't about academic representation. Kids don't care if their stuff looks "realistic." If you haven't drawn in years and you draw like a six year old on your first attempt you're probably doing it right, but most adults have a more tentative approach. Unless they're drawing with their kids. Drawing with your kids is like an excuse to cut loose. You end up drawing as an act of play, which is exactly what it should be. As a professional, I have few opportunities to truly play in my work, because they're are so many technical challenges and practical goals. Even when I draw for my own pleasure it's with an academic mindset, an act of study more than fun. This isn't the case for all professionals, but for me I often find it so.

Drawing With Children

Without this training, you have an opportunity to turn drawing into an act of pure enjoyment. Avoid having goals and objectives. Don't think so much about sharing your work or showing it or having it evaluated. This is easier said than done, and the best way to do it is to draw with a kid. "Let's draw monsters" or "let's draw animals is an adequate enough excuse." But you also must be careful not to get caught up in the trap of judging their work, as much as you should avoid judging your own. This a common suggestion in child development, but one that not everyone knows: never ask a kid what their drawing is, or what it's about, or worse, ask them "What is this supposed to be." Let them tell you. If they present their drawing to you, say, "tell me about this drawing." This way you're not making any assumptions about what the drawing is supposed to represent, which can really kill the kid's self-esteem. They often assume that you should already know. It's not deceptive to ask them to describe the picture, it's just courteous. Their self-esteem remains in tact, and maybe you learn something about how they see the world. I also think that it's often a bad idea to read to much into the drawing.

Don't Try to Figure This Stuff Out, just Draw With Them

Sometimes there's a raw quality kid's drawings, especially when depicting family members and people they know. It can be useful to pay attention to the situations they're representing as a form of communication. At the same time, every drawing is not a psychological profile. Sometimes a kid wants to draw monsters because they want to draw monsters, or bloody battles because they want to draw bloody battles. Sometimes they're only emulating something they've seen, like a certain type of cartoon character. Missing hands may not mean they have some deep psychological issue about hands or touching, but maybe they just don't like to draw hands. Sometimes a dream is just a dream. A cigar is just a cigar. And this applies just as much to kids.

 Kids also are very much aware that somethings going on when you're doing this kind of thing. It can really be an impediment to play, and cause kid's to be a  distrustful if they don't know you very well. So unless you're a psychologist, don't try to figure this stuff out. Enjoy the kid, and what they have to offer. Involve yourself in what they're doing. Allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy drawing in the way they do. Drawing with Kid's is a great excuse to give yourself permission to draw.

I'm not a psychologist, and can't claim to be an expert on this subject, but I grew up with psychologists, and saw my share as a kid, and witnessed the mistakes they made along the way. So my advice is strictly anecdotal. This is what I believe.

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