“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” ~ Camille Pissarro
Recently, a three and half year old girl invited me to sit with her while she drew. She does not speak much English. She hardly speaks at all. She took me by the hand, led me to the table with drawing materials and patted the chair next to hers – my cue to sit down! She then proceeded to make various circles and lines on her paper. When she was finished, she pointed to her drawing then smiled and pointed to herself. I said, “That’s YOU?” She nodded. I printed her name on the paper, pointed to her and said, “That’s you too.” Her self portrait. Her name. Her. This seemed like such a revealing moment; she realized what makes her unique and declared this to the world through her drawing. It was quite special to witness this child’s discovery, and consider the idea that art can be a mirror in which we see ourselves.
The classroom gets so busy that it can be difficult just to sit and watch while children’s art unfolds. Too often there isn’t time to pay close attention and to listen. And sadly, pictures that seem like little more than random scribbles often make their way into the recycle bin – their stories left untold. Moments like the one I described above can be easily missed along with the chance to hear what children are communicating through their art. Some articles I have found on-line that can help to understand the development of children’s drawing include:
The research tells us important things about the lines, shapes and symbols we are looking at and helps us see children’s drawings with a deeper appreciation. But we mustn’t overlook what children tell us themselves – the stories behind their pictures. Even the simplest pictures can be relaying big messages. To start a conversation about a child’s drawing, try saying things like, “Your picture makes me feel….” or “This reminds me of ….” or “I think your picture is interesting because….” Open-ended comments can help children to invite you into their thoughts and let you see under the surface of their drawings. And the world of children’s art is such a wonderful place to travel when you make the time for it.
If you’re lucky enough to have a child take you by the hand and lead you to the art table, go. Look closely. Listen carefully. Enjoy where children’s art and their stories take you.