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This is a stage that most, if not all children go through. The image
being referred to is called "schema". Remember back to when your first
starting drawing as a child. Better yet, if you still have some of your
art work from grade school, pull it out and look at it. I would be
surprised if you did not draw the lolli- pop trees and the famous v-birds.
As far as the trees not being representative of the real thing...yes, in a
manner of speaking or should I say seeing, they are, only in a much more
simplified way. I teach a lesson called the Parts of Art to grade school
children at Joslyn Museum (Omaha, NE). Students are shown how to create
different forms by combining shapes. An ice cream cone, for instance, is
a circle with a triangle on the bottom. A tree could be a triangle with a
rectangle for a stump. It teaches children especially those afraid of
drawing, how to create an object by breaking it down into simple shapes.
Once they understand how to create the object, they can begin to add
different types of lines to create a more realistic drawing. If this
sounds crazy, I can tell you that my Life Drawing classes have taught
students how to break down the human figure into simple shapes to get the
proportions correct, and it does help.
In my Art in the Elementary class, I learned about the stages of
development for children and the creative process. There are five stages:
Scribbling stage - 2 to 4 years - beginning of self-expression
Pre-schematic stage - 4 to 7 years - First representational
Schematic stage - 7 to 9 years - achievement of a form concept
Gang Age - 9 to 12 years - The dawning realism
Pseudo-naturalistic stage - 12 to 14 - the age of reasoning
This is from a book Creative and Mental Growth, 6th ed, Viktor Lowenfeld
and W. Lambert Brittain, published by Macmillan. You'll notice that ages
are given for each stage, and that is for the "average child". Children
with developmental disabilities and children who are considered "gifted"
will go through these stages at a much different pace than the average