We all drew, painted, and made things out of playdough and construction paper as little children, in spontaneous and unselfconscious ways. Some of us retain those memories, and we may also have children or grandchildren whose artwork we love. The art of children affords an intriguing view of a very different way of seeing and thinking than we have as adults, and many abstract artists have found it a source of inspiration. Today we look at some special qualities of child art and how it may feed our abstract ideas.
Many contemporary artists find kid’s art intriguing, especially art from the very early years before the child has been told how things “should” be depicted. Whether this is done consciously or unconsciously, well-meaning parents and adults present young children with a very different idea of what art is about. Their emphasis is on recognizable objects portrayed with a single meaning, as in “this is a person, or this is a tree” without considering the different perceptions of a young child.
Children naturally follow their own intuitive logic in depicting their world, using symbolic and narrative approaches that may not make sense to an adult. They are fluid not only in their freedom and inventiveness with materials, but also in their interpretations of their own work. The story they tell about a painting may be different tomorrow, showing how intimately they engage with imagination as they create.
We all made this kind of art long ago. If we’ve lost the memory, can we still reconnect with some of its liberating aspects? Consider the power of symbols, the freedom from conventional approaches to space within the picture plane, and the focus on process rather than results that young children display in their work. Perhaps above all, their trust in an intuitive “rightness” about their work, whatever adult rules it may break. We may have left this state of flow many decades ago, but we can reconsider its advantages now from an adult perspective and how they may fit with our current abstract expression.
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