Art for children

Home / Education / ARChives / Foundational Discussions

Art for children

From Susan Fowler

Published before 2005


Learning to see is essential. Describing what you see, to even a very young child is a useful exercise. I developed the habit of looking at everything as a potential painting, partly because my life allowed so little time for actual work. It was good practice, nonetheless. Now, I simply share my way of looking at something with even the youngest of my grandchildren e.g. “Oh look, Walter, see the way the light hits the silver maple – some of the branches are black and others look almost white against the sky. The sky is darker than usual because the clouds are a dark blue-gray color. If I were going to paint those clouds I would use indigo with a touch of sepia for the darkest parts at the bottom. See how the few leaves left on the tree are made more golden by the blue-gray clouds, and look how beautiful the reds and oranges are on the Liquidambur across the street. They look like jewels.” Not only did he listen intently, all the while looking at what I was describing, but I found him later looking at the same scene and he said, “Isn’t that so beautiful?” Walter is four.

Children are delighted when you can see something in their drawings, often unintended. In one instance I noticed the outlines of a Viking ship on Walter’s scribbling. He was amazed to find it there, but did not let on. I moved my finger around it while I described the shapes and parts of the ship. He then worked for an hour drawing Viking ships, refining and embellishing and was thoroughly absorbed.

Art, the finished product, is one man’s depiction of what he sees. “Art” is de-mystified for children who understand the process. Looking at “good art” shows the child what can be achieved with observation, concentration and practice. It is not beyond them, it is their future.

A by-product of “seeing” with children is to become excruciatingly aware of how UGLY things are that are made specifically for children. Dumping television, animation, ugly toys, bizarre and denatured images is a good place to start. Clean things up to make some room for ARC.

Susan Fowler