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Lesson Plans

long! Re: kids as artists (re: to henry)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Fri, 17 May 1996 11:56:48 -0700 (MST)

On Thu, 16 May 1996, Dave wrote:
> henry,
> Thanks for the reply. When I used the term Masters and Masterpieces,and
> rules of design when refering to childrens art, the words were used very
> loosely, my apologies!

henry (chuckling): I tend to get carried away in my analytics Dave.
Apologies are NEVER necessary! (Otherwise, I'd be apologising every other
sentence.) I never do know the degree of "looseness" with which a
statement is framed, so I choose to pretend or respond "as-if" the author
were being specific because I'm guessing that a number of lurkers and
readers ARE reading things literally and I'm trying to suck them into the
discussion as well. As a guess it may not be accurate, but it's all I've
got to go on.

> When I say I harp on the kids the rules of design what I really meant was
> that I suggest ways of pushing their composition in ways that will balance
> it out and make it more aestheticly pleasing in my opinion. We as artists
> can take the "rules" an change them to our liking, and hopefully it will
> work.

Oooo... I did try to avoid focusing much on that part of what you wrote. Not
hard enough evidently. My apologies to you. You read my bias clearly even
when I tried to 'soft pedal'. Maybe I better re read what I wrote huh?
I was probably being stiff-necked again on the notion of the imposition of
rules and laws. I do get carried away! Sensitive little joik ain't I?

I was chatting thursday a.m. with Rosa from up in Iceland who I guess
started this thread. It occured to me that part of what we tend to...
imagine as central to art and painting -- draftsmanship (draughtsmanship
for the uk folk) and "realistic" perception are techniques and skills that
usually require time to develop about 20-40 years I'd say (and i still
have a way to go) and so are almost by definition outside the scope of
children. One can shortcut the thing by creating a little savant who can
do horses out of legend at age 4 or 5 but whos doggies and birdies are
exactly like those of the kid in the next desk. We do that by creating a
set of rules a tautology for creating a certain kind of drawing but it
doesn't cut across the board. The flaws in our 'artist' stand out. The
kids, me for example buy into the notion that draftsmanship is the sine
qua non of art and try to make pictures like those in their storybooks.
Trying to be N.C Wyeth at 6 just about spoiled art forever for me.
But I had a teacher who showed me Brancusi and that changed everything! I
put off trying to be Ol' N.C. and worked on other things instead..

Is there a difference between sensual and cognitive perception? I
remember as a little kid how much trouble I had finding the patience to
imagine and draw all the complexity of what I percieved. It seemed
overwhelming and inevitably I surrendered to filling in "default"
patterns to represent what I could see but what I could not understand in
such a way so as to draw it.

I'm wondering if some process of brain development was at play. Are kids
of varying ages only able to COGNITIVELY perceive and comprehend a limited
amount of detail comensurate to their development? Typically, I note that
children and many adults draw WHAT THEY KNOW more often that what
precisely it is that they see or can see. They most often draw things in
the way they know them to be generically rather than representing the
specific and unique point of view in front of them. Artists who have
become adept at accurate representation have learned to see in special ways
like "flat" or relationally this takes time to learn, as noted above and
perhaps time as well to develop phisiologically.

It would be interesting to look at children at different ages attempting
to duplicate a set of increasingly complex patterns some of which were
photographs of common familiar things of which we all tend to have
internal "generic" representations. Would we find a distinct pattern to
the development of cognitive perception? Might we find that children up
to a certain age can envision and represent imagery only as complex as
say Matisse cutouts? while at the other end of things mature individuals
could represent accurately highly complex imagery ONLY after training or
experience in perception at that level?

As usual, this might well be something familiar to all but me <G> There
is so much to study! So much that is important to "know". It is hard to
be up to date.

What this comes down to relative to this thread is this:

Perhaps what children can achieve as artists is something with a
developmental component. In terms of abstract or non-photographic
representation (not trying to look "real") I've seen kids who consistently
do superb work (few kids are or can be easily interested in doing this
kind of work just now, I note) I've seen kids who have learned a formula
(like traditions in chinese ink) and do excellent work as long as they
stay within the parameters of that formula. On one hand some of these kids
are quite capable of professional work, art if you will. They have
adequately mastered certain skills. If you ask them to work outside these
areas however their work looks exactly like the work of any other kid
their age. Likewise if you take many professional artists and give them a
comission for something outside THEIR SPECIALTY, their work is equally
flawed tho as mature artists they often have perceptual and technical
skills to allow working around their limitations. I once accepted a few
commissions of this sort and while non-artist clients didn't notice
anything amiss. Artist friends and I found the flaws most disconcerting.

So maturity seems to me to, be part, but only part of being an artist with
adequate mastery. Kids CAN do it but is unlikely especially given the
context with its bias for representational work ONLY achievable as an
adult or within the constraints of a formula. This seems to me driven in
part by the illustrations offered to children and used by them as
examples, benchmarks, of how art "ought" to be. The majority of the art
children are commonly exposed to requires mature understanding and skill
to produce.

Asian, formulaic, traditions of representation offer kids a chance to
feel comparable to an adult in skill early on -- if they learn the drill
which does demand much work.

Western abstraction, in many ways another set of form-ulas I suppose,
seems to offer the same chance but at the moment is culturally less
attractive to the young, though it might be easier to achieve "success"

So called "primitive" or tribal or ancient styles of art have similar
qualities of accessability, but tend to be taught as tho formal adherence
to an alien cultural tradition was the significant experience to be
derived.. so we have non-Zunis imitating Zuni patterns, non-Yirritaja
imitating x-ray style rock art rather than trying to understand and
represent patterns and art styles out of their own traditions (and we all
have such traditions if we want to go looking for them -- regional
european "primitive" tribal or ancient styles of art ["ours" for most of
us] are there for us whenever we want to go get 'em)

How long does it take a committed college student to learn to draw
assuming that they do not come into the program as an "art-star". Given
the same program could any child have the same success? I don't think so.
Maybe programs trying to develop mature draftsmanship/representation in
k-12 produce more frustration than success? (I'd like to hear about both
sides of this "argument")

How important is development of skills that support creation of "realism"
(classical, modern, postmodern) in art to the art education programs those
on this list are involved in? I may be assuming that this is more common
that it actually is.

Well, this has been a long post. thanks for making it this far!
Apologies to those who didn't.

Thanks too to Dave and Rosa who began this thread!

all tuckered out!