Earlier we came to an informal consensus that children’s art is not real “art.” I don’t see that as a problem, but it makes me curious: what are children doing when they draw? To try to get some insight, I’ve been drawing together with Nino and Fran.

This is a drawing that Nino (three years old) and I made together. The starting point was to draw circles using a roll of scotch tape as a template. Then we drew larger shapes and colored them in.

What were we doing here? It was a bit like playing a game. Most of all, it was fun. The obvious finally occurred to me: children’s art is art done for fun. If they stopped enjoying what they were doing, they wouldn’t go on with it. I found it fun and also relaxing to do the coloring, seeing how I could fill up the spaces. At an artistic level, I was pleased with the different texture results we got when using a fresh marker (the green for example) as compared to half-dried out markers (pink and blue, for example).

Later I made this drawing together with Fran (four and a half years old). We didn’t use any templates here, simply worked free-hand. The dynamic here was something of a dialogue in coloring: she colored in the areas I established, and I colored in her areas.

Magic marker has not been my drawing medium for at least twenty five years. It took me some time to enjoy working with them, but now I am hooked on them, just as I was as a kid!

Do you draw with your kids? Do you ever draw like a kid — as in, just for fun? What are the limitations of this approach? Is a certain amount of “pain” necessary to create real “art”?

UPDATE, 12 January

Sunil pointed out that young children have an ability called ‘perceptual closure’ that allows them to understand drawings like these. I was surprised that my kids didn’t recognize these as faces. Do yours?

We seem not to have as much of a “consensus” as I thought. David said “I totally consider children’s art to be real art.” Leslie and Colin agreed,” but Arthur remained skeptical (which is why we love him so much).

What about “no pain, no art?” Pain does not seem to be a requirement for art, but fun seems to be a useful ingredient — at least this seems to be the consensus from the comments so far . . .