>>>> I was wondering if anyone has surveyed children's preferences for art
SUBJECTS. For example, I suspect they like narrative paintings more than
abstract art. They like beasts and corpulent bodies more than Degas'
ballet dancers. Has anyone experienced that same feeling? I think there
is a tendency to look for "childish" themes instead of discovering what
children's real interests are. I'd appreciate hearing your point of views,
especially concerning elementary aged children. <<<<
My first semester teaching (k-6 as an artist/parent I had been "drafted")
was, effectively tho not intentionally, "Mr. Taylor's Coloring Book".
Lacking any concept of classroom management I scrambled from desk to desk
fulfilling requests for images to color. Naively, I believed that
explaining my drawing process as I went along would eventually sink in.
Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. At that beginning point as an art teacher
my objective was simply to utilize what the kids brought to class in
getting them involved. Only later did I begin to feel confident enough to
begin exploring new areas with them.
In any case, subject requests from naive students were largely defined by
gender roles (As accepted by the kids themselves) in a generally
conservative anglo community. Pastoral nature scenes were common for
people wearing tidy dresses and longer hair. The younger ones were
particularly fond of unicorns, a variant with wings if time allowed. The
ones in shorts and tee-shirts were very big on dinosaurs and if allowed or
encouraged these creatures would have been accessorized with numerous body
parts. The baseball cap and basketball-jersey folks moved in a no less
violent but vastly more mechanized, urban environment and a "crypt-keeper"
aesthetic. Halloween, seemed to be the "season of art" for them.
That's the early, raw data on subject requests. In later, more organized,
semesters, the unit on chinese, traditional styles of horse painting was
very popular in the upper school (4-6) while a diversity of trees kept
coming up in the lower school.
Narrative story-lines were indeed the more prevalent and the boys, more
than the girls, enjoyed incorporating the chaotic complexities of decay
and deterioration, or, as you suggest corpulence.
Archetypal "Childish themes" seem to be most popular with adults, the
smallest, and the most compliant children. Further, it is hard to filter
out the effects of TV and Movies in their influence on kid-art.
Essentially it's a feedback loop with no clear-cut beginning or end it
Perhaps kids, like most people, are torn between the most
familiar and the most exotic elements in their experience and/or
environment. The familiar stuff makes art "real", the exotic makes it
exciting and meaningful.