HELPING POST-NAIVES TO DRAW AGAIN
"Our daughter is in late intermediate and our son in middle school. Both were enthusiastic drawers in their younger days but now they rarely pick up a pen except to write. Is this an inevitable part of growing up, or is there something we can do about it?"
* The need and passion for drawing is not as intense for post-naives as it is for younger children. If we agree that drawing is a language, then we must recognize that older children have reached a stage where literacy is more useful and other interests more important - the academic and social aspects of school, other art forms, sports activities and so on.
* And there are barriers to spontaneous drawing which were not there before. This is the age of emerging self-consciousness and children are increasingly influenced by peer opinion: drawing at school may be simply too daunting. There is also the belief that you have to have a special talent to draw. Talent is relative in drawing as in everything else but the class drawer, the one who is asked to provide illustrations or do posters, is a mixed blessing. We admire skill but regret that we do not have it. This leads to another widespread but erroneous belief that accurate likeness to the model is the sole criterion of art, Under these pressures, many post-naives give up drawing entirely and resist attempts to participate in drawing at home.
* Acknowledging these inhibitions is it still worthwhile to encourage older children to participate in a "daily draw"? Are there benefits for post-naives even as literacy becomes stronger? The answer is a resounding yes! When literacy is just emerging drawing is essential for optimum mental growth but its importance diminishes somewhat for post-naives. For them the role of drawing may be conceptualized as an auxiliary to literacy although it still contributes unique language expressions on its own. Drawing and literacy are a powerful combination and continue to be important for reaching optimum mental growth. Two groups are especially in need of daily drawing, those who are having difficulties with the codes of literacy and those who are learning English as a second language.
A REMEDIAL DRAWING PROGRAM FOR POST-NAIVES
* Your question suggests a need for a remedial drawing program either at home or school or both. I have taught young people art in secondary school, and adults at university. All were post-naives inhibited by the challenges described above. Over the years I found myself designing and refining strategies for all who were handicapped by the "I can't draw" syndrome. Drawing was by far the most useful tool for this purpose.
* In my first two years of teaching elementary art methods at university, I presented what I thought was an ideal program for children, but I made no attempt to involve them in making authentic art themselves. Before beginning my third year I realized that it was a false approach. With few exceptions, my students had no background in art. It was a one-unit course, limited in time, but there was clearly a need to give them an introduction to art history, picture appreciation, art education theory and a "hands on" experience that was authentic, similar to what I would expect them to give children when it was their turn to teach. These four strands were integrated and used spontaneously, a model I hoped my students would adopt.
* I had other students in studio graphic arts (printmaking, drawing, and photography), part of our art education program, who would become specialists in elementary and secondary schools. In contrast to the methods students, they came with strong backgrounds from high school art programs and carried assumptions and values close to my own.
* The remediation strategies that I describe began as a response to the weak background of the elementary generalists but was soon integrated into the graphic arts program as well. It became the focus for all my students from then on. We called it "authentic personal imagery" or API for short.
* On the first day of a new elementary methods class I would introduce students to children's drawings as a language phenomenon. It surprised them to learn that young children have a language in spontaneous drawing superior to their use of words. It also surprised them to learn that they had the same language buried within themselves but lost through years of neglect. I tried to convince them that it could be recovered through remedial techniques, a familiar concept in other parts of the curriculum but probably not in art. I did my best to convince them that our goal was not to return to childish imagery, but to link the spontaneity and innocence of childhood to mature intelligence and longer life experience. We studied drawings by children but also the art of adult 'primitives' which their initial drawings resembled. I explained that by 'innocence' I meant relative freedom from cultural stereotypes and a direct and honest response to personal experience, real or imagined. In discovering their own lost language of authentic art they would enrich their lives and bring a creative and authentic practice to the children they would teach. (The results ranged from utter failure to the acceptance of one student's work by a gallery in Montreal devoted to 'naive art'.) **
** In-text footnote: This was the beginning of the Drawing Network Credo which evolved over the years and did not reach maturity until I was within a year or two of retirement.
* It seemed important to begin with challenging subjects. Children are rarely daunted by any subject matter that interests them and I wanted to encourage teachers to choose themes from important life experiences. I also reasoned that because children draw naturally from memory and imagination, their teachers should have the same experience. On different occasions the theme was "the peaceable kingdom" - reproduced here; "what it would feel like to be a five-year-old whose mother has just come home from the hospital with a new baby" - reproduced in my first book; or "a neighborhood grocery store as seen from the sidewalk" - reproduced in a later chapter. The first drawings surprised me as it did the drawers who made them. Once drawing was removed from the pressure of "correctness" and the non-challenging subject matter of cultural stereotypes, it could become a pleasurable activity even for self-doubting adults. Challenging themes also have the advantage of encouraging serious conversation which, in turn, benefits literacy.
* I began these challenging sessions with a description and I invited the class to contribute details from their own experience. I introduced visualization and guided imagery which became part of each drawing session. These were important skills for children and young people. There was usually time for a second drawing on the same subject, and sometimes a third, a practice we found helpful. Contour line drawing was the exclusive technique for remedial strategies. At first I simply urged them to keep the pen moving and not to worry about getting it right; later I insisted on a stricter discipline as part of game drawing. (See below.) Ball points were used exclusively because ink lines can't be erased. It was accepted that lines could not be gone over a second time. New lines were encouraged for improving and enriching the image but had to find their own path. Going over the same line twice robs line of its purity, its descriptive power, and the potential for 'aesthetic energy'.
* Perhaps a summary will be useful here. The components for designing your own remedial program are as follows: 1) choose challenging and emotionally charged subjects, 2 include subjects that engage the visible, the remembered, and the imagined, 3) assume responsibility for choosing and motivating themes, 4) motivate with oral descriptions and encourage students to contribute, 5) make line drawing with a ballpoint pen the exclusive technique, 6) introduce visualization and ask drawers to "see" on their inner screen the picture or event you are describing, 7) introduce 'guided imagery' to help students choose points of view from several options, 8) disallow talking, laughing, sharing unfinished drawings, requesting help or any other distraction while students are drawing, 9) allow time for student responses at the end of each drawing , and 10) allow time for a second and sometimes a third drawing on the same theme.
* TO CATCH YOUR EYE ,THE FOLLOWING IS IN CAPS: SOME CHILDREN MAY NOT NEED A FULL PROGRAM OF REMEDIATION BUT WILL BENEFIT FROM OCCASIONAL EPISODES OF ONE OR ANOTHER COMPONENT AS DESCRIBED IN THESE PAGES. IT IS IMPORTANT FOR PARENT OR TEACHER TO MAKE UP A PROGRAM TO FIT THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS.
* A distinction between 'photographic naturalism' and 'empathic realism' may be helpful. It is unfortunate that 'photographic naturalism' is the criterion of excellence for many post-naives. It is this culturally sanctioned but untenable view of art that makes remediation necessary, "Empathic realism" is a term I coined to encompass the art of young children and to appeal to the post-naive need for a degree of subject recognition. 'Empathic realism' covers everything except its opposite, 'photographic naturalism'. It originates in themes from personal experience, avoids pure abstraction except in the context of pattern making for design projects. It is tolerant of abstraction when abstraction is the product of empathy. It also tolerates exaggeration, distortion and marks made in the white heat of emotional release. It is 'realism' in the sense that it is a response to a real experience and not a demonstration of skill to impress self and viewers. The characteristics of 'empathic realism' show up in child art, naive or primitive art and in the figurative imagery of modern art. I used examples of these to help insecure post-naives locate their drawings in a supportive cultural environment. Learning to read and appreciate the aforementioned categories became an integral part of my art methods course.
* In contrast, "naturalism" concentrates on the skills of photographic verisimilitude, correct proportion, correct perspective and so on. I tried to show that these are either weak or non-existent values but, to avoid an "anything goes" attitude, I insisted that aesthetic values can be identified and that achieving authentic imagery is a demanding but worthwhile discipline. Another major difference: 'empathic realism' takes the student directly into the creative experience; 'naturalism' insists on learning skills and standards of 'correctness' first.
* Post-drawing analysis is an important part of all remedial drawing activities. Not only is literacy served by conversations but useful terms, concepts and technical procedures are absorbed into general knowledge. The focus of motivation and analysis - the first at the beginning, the second at the end - is on content, Form and technique are discussed later, but chiefly as they relate to subject matter and how content has been achieved. This emphasis on content may contradict a drift towards formalism and an emphasis on 'grammar' which is found in contemporary art education, but I think of it as a needed corrective. Children are not motivated by form and technique but by subject matter and content.
DRAWING ONE: "THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM": a first day drawing from Sharon, a student in my art education methods class. The theme is which was set up by a brief study of the American painter, Edward Hicks (1780 - 1849).
DRAWING TWO: "GOING FOR A WALK" by Suzanne, a student in my graphic arts program, one of a series of images on the theme of 'family'. They were later turned into etchings and block prints.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
WE HAVE HEARD OF YOUR "MY DAY-YOUR DAY' APPROACH TO SETTING UP POST-NAIVE DRAWING PROGRAMS. WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?
Early in my career I found myself the new art teacher in a large secondary school. Prior to my arrival art students had been making leather products using kits purchased from a craft store. They came with materials and instructions for making and decorating purses, wallets, belts, handbags and key holders. Taking art was considered an opportunity for enjoying an 'easy' course and having a sociable time with like-minded friends. It was also an opportunity to make spending money by selling hand-made leather products. It was emphatically not how I saw my job. The challenge was to win them over to a program of authentic art.
* My early attempts were met with sullen resistance and, desperate to find a compromise, I came up with the idea of a teacher/student contract. On 'their day' students would work on leather or any other art project that interested them and on 'my day' I would teach authentic art more or less as I have described it in this book. The contract approach seemed fair to the students and they agreed to my proposal. At the beginning of each class I faced them with, "Whose day is it, your day or mine?" It was a way of reminding them that they were now under contract!
* DID THE "MY DAY - YOUR DAY' CONTRACT WORK?
It worked and with modifications became the approach I used from then on in a high school setting. If art is to be truly authentic, I reasoned, the artist must be free to make personal choices as to subject matter, technique, medium, style and so on. Indeed, making intelligent choices became part of my teaching. On the other hand, even the best students have an imperfect background and an underdeveloped talent and a majority had no background at all. Students need instruction and guidance. Finding a balance between giving students the opportunity to "do their own thing" and giving them the tools and strategies for authentic practice and growth is the challenge of art teaching. I found that the "my day/your day" strategy provided this balance. As it turned out, the students on 'their day' increasingly worked on projects I had initiated in "my day". Stereotyped leather craft became a thing of the past because it turned out to be boring compared to doing 'real' art. The following year I received permission to teach a craft course and leather was included but projects had to be student designed from start to finish. Authentic art gradually became the norm and was staunchly defended by my students. It was an encouraging example of good art driving out bad!
* WHY ARE YOU SO STRONGLY IN FAVOR OF LINE DRAWING?
Contour line drawing is the technique children use naturally. There are at least five advantages: 1) it is the medium most conducive to spontaneity, a requirement of drawing-as-language, 2) it establishes contours against which tone, texture and color can be systematically applied, 3) it is the aspect of drawing most conducive to explicitness and detail and therefore most effective for the articulation, expression and communication of language values, 4 ) it is the technique most likely to produce empathy and therefore to radiate aesthetic energy, 5) it requires less time than any other technique which greatly increases its usefulness as a language medium throughout the curriculum. Young drawers love to use tone, texture, and color but these are best left to art classes and leisure time.
* DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR TEACHING LINE TO POST-NAIVES?
You might describe the process this way: "Line begins with an awareness of edges. There are two kinds of edges: every form - whether observed, remembered or imagined - has an outline which changes relative to the position of drawer to subject. Most forms also have in-lines that describe interior forms. (To illustrate: eggs and other spherical forms have outlines only and are without in-lines and are best avoided as drawing subjects. Egg beaters have outlines and in-lines and are very interesting subjects.) Begin by examining edges and match edges on subjects to lines on paper. This is the simplest way to describe line drawing. Learning to co-ordinate perception with the muscular performance of hand muscles is the essence of line drawing. Anyone can do it with a little practice.
* Another word for edge is 'contour'. You might ask drawers to follow the contours while recording them on paper with the drawing tool. If the line is continuous and without breaks, it is called a "continuous contour line drawing". Keep the tempo slow enough to discourage approximations, but not so slow that doubt creeps in. With practice, a comfortable state of mind is achieved and you will begin to feel the drawing tool taking over the performance while you watch. Surrender to this feeling for it is the feeling of empathy!
* SHOULD POST-NAIVES DRAW FROM DIRECT OBSERVATION AND WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES? IS DRAWING REAL EXPERIENCES FROM MEMORY A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE?
There are advantages in having post-naives draw from a visible model, especially for beginning post-naives who may feel more comfortable with a visible model present. If you have older kids who need help getting back into drawing, try starting them with drawing from a posed figure, a vase of flowers, a still-life, a favorite toy, the view out a window.
DRAWING THREE: "A WINDUP TOY" by an anonymous intermediate-age girl. The teacher had a collection of small toys chosen for their contour edges. For a few days a period was devoted to drawing. The children had ten minutes with a toy close at hand and then, ready or not, it was passed forward for the next round. This was a crash program in drawing from observation with continuous contour line and, at the end of it, the children felt confident about drawing from observation.
DRAWING FOUR: "MY REEBOKS" by Jack (age 12): The extraordinary realism of this drawing reaches a climax in the tangle of laces. Two complex forms become one. A chaos of stringy forms becomes a perfectly articulated pattern.
* There is another possible advantage to having a drawing subject near at hand. Empathy does not come easily to post-naives and we wonder if drawing a visible model makes it easier for post-naives to "reach out and mentally 'touch' the subject", in other words, to experience empathy. An more important question: Is feeling empathy transferrable? For example, would drawing visible subjects over a period of time transfer to feeling empathy for human subjects or environmental situations? We think that it may be so but recognize the need for research to prove the point.
* DRAWING FIVE: "A DRAWING OF MY TEACHER IN A SARI" by Jun (age 9). His teacher, reports, "One day I came to school dressed in my Sari and posed for the children who drew me from observation."
WOULD YOU HAVE CHILDREN DRAW FROM MEDIA PHOTOGRAPHY?
* Using photographic imagery broadens subject matter in social studies and science and the possibilities of story telling in language arts. It is one of many possible sources of subject matter and has the advantage of turning attention to the aesthetics of photography. Photographic images are caught by the "double 'L' viewfinder" and used to generate line drawings. The hunt is for original images, the ones not intended by the photographer but caught in the lens in the process of photographing something else. I call it "found photography". The viewfinder is simply two "L" shaped cards used to isolate original pictorial fragments. Abandoned matts from a local framing shop are ideal and two cuts with an exacto knife give students the 'camera' they need.
OUR FRIEND REMEMBERS DRAWING WITH HER EYES SHUT IN YOUR CLASS. THIS SEEMS STRANGE: CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
* Shut-eye and 'squint-eye' drawing shifts the emphasis from seeing to touching. Use them whether drawing from observation, memory, or imagination. Empathy is a combination of 'touch' and 'visual perception'. The results fulfill our definition of 'empathic realism' even though, because of the enforced handicap of limited vision, they may show slight resemblance to the subject. A curious phenomenon sometimes occurs: with the emphasis on touching the image into visibility, the contorted image emits more aesthetic energy than a studied drawing.
IS IT TRUE THAT FOR POST-NAIVES YOU PRESENT REMEDIAL DRAWING AS A GAME? THE DRAWING GAME?
* I introduced drawing as a game to allay the fears and doubts that post-naives typically bring to drawing, In my methods courses I hoped that it would reconcile students to procedures and results that might at first seem ridiculous and of no value. There are advantages to presenting drawing as a game. Students are familiar with games and remember them as uncomfortable in the early stages but enjoyable with practice. Practice leads to a more and more acceptable performance. No one questions the coach's right to introduce a new game, indeed, it is expected and welcomed. Games have rules and procedures which are gradually internalized as confidence is gained. Thinking back on it, the game drawing strategy was a success. I assumed the role of coach and asked my students to accept results with a grain of salt until strategies could internalized.
COULD YOU DESCRIBE THE "DRAWING GAME" IN MORE DETAIL?
* The problem for post-naives is that the analytical mind is quick to intrude and when it does it creates havoc with the creative process. The purpose of the 'continuous line rule' is to short-circuit analysis when it is most prone to undermine confidence. Earlier I suggested a relaxed introduction to the continuous line rule. Now I will describe a stricter regime in which the moving pen must continue its journey without lifting and without changing pace. (Here the game strategy is a great asset.) Moreover, the line must seem to 'touch' the contours of the subject as precisely as possible. The line is kept moving and remains in empathic touch with the subject. Sloppy generalizations are as unwanted in drawing as sloppy basketball handling. The line must be the product of seeing, remembering, imagining and touching. If this is followed conscientiously, the line will radiate 'aesthetic energy'. The technique can be softened later by allowing the pen to lift to relocate. This will eliminate the unwanted "clotheslines" that appear from a strict observance of the rule. When the pen is in the process of relocating it is allowed to move above the paper but the tempo shouuld remain the same, not too fast and not too slow.
AND THE "GOING OVER THE SAME LINE TWICE" RULE MUST STILL BE OBSERVED?
* Yes, indeed: The moving line must always explore new territory. As I have said, going over the line robs it of vitality. Study the line drawings of Matisse! It is unthinkable that the French master would have gone over the same line twice! We know Renaissance drawings where the master is apparently searching for a "best" line, perhaps in a study for a painting, but this is not a useful concept for students in a remediation regime. A new line running along side the original adds to "aesthetic energy" while going over the line twice destroys it.
IT IS SAID THAT YOU ARE IN THE HABIT OF COACHING IN A LOW VOICE, INTERJECTING WITH SHORT STATEMENTS MEANT TO REMIND DRAWERS OF GAME RULES WHILE THEY ARE ACTUALLY DRAWING. DO YOU REALLY THINK THIS IS HELPFUL?
* I wish I knew! Perhaps it was just a bad habit. Certainly silence is a virtue when drawers are actually drawing. And yet I have always felt that verbal coaching in a low voice is helpful in the early stages. If you feel uncomfortable with 'voice-over' coaching, the benefits of remedial drawing can be achieved without it. The material presented as 'voice-over' coaching can be used in mini-lectures to throw light on the game drawing procedures.
In-text footnote: With older post-naives I used the following terms to identify levels or aspects of consciousness: 1) conscious awareness, the function of rationality and analysis; 2) the preconscious, function of intuition; 3) the personal unconscious, source of repressed subject matter and 4) the collective unconscious, source of myth and archetype. (My approach was descriptive and minimalist. My source for the first three is Dr. Lawrence Kubie's "Neurotic Distortion of the Creative Process" and for the 'collective unconscious', the writings of Dr. Carl Jung.)
** "Draw as though you've been drawing all your life. Aim to let your preconscious intuition take over the performance.
** The goal is to achieve the freedom of young children but not to abandon your intelligence or discount your longer life experience."
** "The moving line" is a mechanical device to help you resist stopping for analysis. Put analysis aside for a spell. Watch the image appear on the paper and don't question or doubt. Leave it to the preconscious; leave it to empathy. Keep the line moving and the preconscious will take over. It will surprise you with its drawing ability!
** If we say the line is not under rational control, who is telling it where to go? Who is driving the car? Who is co-ordinating the shot on goal? Who tells you where to move your fingers on the keyboard or the fret? We allow the preconscious to come into play in many situations but we do very little to encourage it in the visual arts where we get tangled up in notions of 'correctness'. Let's use and trust it in drawing.
** It may seem strange but empathy is as much a tactile experience as a visual experience. Imagine that you are touching the form into existence on the paper. Michelangelo said that he carved as though the form was hidden in the stone and Inuit carvers have said something similar. (It is said that Inuit carvers fondle the stone before beginning and ask in all seriousness, "Who lies within waiting to be released?) Imagine that you are 'carving' the form into existence with your ballpoint. Feel, as the carver does, the resistance of a resisting medium. Pretend that you are uncovering a drawing latent in the paper but invisible as a photographic image before the development chemical reaches it. When you draw imagine that there is a magnetic drag on the ballpoint underneath the paper against which you must push and pull a little harder. Pretend that you are pulling a sled over a bare gravel road.
** It's not hard to keep the line moving if you think of yourself as the pilot of a 747: if you stall, the plane crashes!
** Keep the line moving as a great tenor saxophonist keeps blowing inventive and original jazz riffs without stopping to consciously plan where to go next.
** When you lift the drawing tool to relocate, keep the flow going even as the drawing tool floats over the page looking for a place to land to begin the next stage. Remember the jumbo jet metaphor!
** Cultivate a watching attitude: watch the line move; watch the shape being born; watch the image emerge like a growing plant. You are not drawing; the drawing is drawing itself!
** Detail is important; don't gloss over it; let the moving line respond to the subject's intricacies. Don't approximate - be precise; let the line explore every nook and cranny, every subtle change in contour; 'outlines' are important and so are 'in-lines'". Everyone knows what an outline is: in-lines are the contour edges within the overall shape of the outline. Some simple drawings are powerful but they come only through a strong realization of empathy. Balance them by programming monolithic drawings now and then.
** Remember: all these strange rules are part of remediation. Practice them in good faith and soon rules will drop off like spent rocket boosters. Drawing will become as natural as walking.
DO YOU HAVE DRAWINGS BY POST-NAIVES YOU COULD SHOW US, PERHAPS EXAMPLES FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS SO WE WE COULD USE THEM AS MODELS FOR OUR OWN TEACHING?
* DRAWING SIX: "THREE COWS" by an adult post-naive with no background in drawing. To show what a 'game drawing' looks like I will begin with this example the only drawing in this collection from a remediation program. Keep in mind that all post-naives, whether older children, adolescents or adults, have similar problems and respond to 'game drawing' in much the same way "Three Cows" could have been done by a drawer in any of these categories.
* As motivation we studied projected images of cows and then drew them from memory. We pretended that we were looking at real cows in a field. The result here may resemble a crude wire construction but note the "empathic realism": the uppermost animal is a cranky old steer; the middle cow shows a typical "wait-and-see" hesitancy, before dashing off; and the third is filled with sleepy bovine contentment. I was able to place this drawing in the context of the modern French master, Jean Dubuffet, who has been called a 'sophisticated naive' and who made a series of paintings of cows. Dubuffet would have admired this drawing by an adult who was truly naive and made no pretense to be otherwise.
* DRAWING SEVEN: "THE FLOOD": by Tyler (age 11) has moved beyond the childish way of making pictures but he retained the self-confidence of earlier years. He wrote,"I'm sending you a drawing of the ark of the future ... I forget where I got the idea ... all I remember is that Mom was driving us home from a trip to Kerrobert to see Grandma and we were all making her something so I just drew."
* It is dominated by the pointed pyramid of Mount Ararat, A huge boat made tiny in the drawing through contrast. It is precariously balanced on the peak of the mountain. One feels that if any of the larger animals were to shift position, it could throw the entire boat community into the sea. It was drawn with empathy but not with game drawing technique and viewers, if they allow it to happen, will find themselves responding empathically. It is worthwhile studying the drawing with a magnifying glass to appreciate the miniature forms.
* DRAWING EIGHT: "VISITING THE VANCOUVER AQUARIUM" by Sammy (age 13). Faced with the problem of showing an enthusiastic crowd of children Sammy had two choices. He could scribble-in an approximation, in the manner of the impressionists, or he could draw every last person in detail. He chose the latter. Leaping gracefully in front of the happy throng are seven sea mammals cavorting.
DRAWING NINE: "A VISIT TO A SPAWNING STREAM" by Hania (age 10) Hania made this exquisite science drawing back in the classroom after a visit to a salmon spawning stream. It is filled with accurate renderings of natural forms and contains a summary of everything she learned on the school outing. Her drawing demonstrates that the beauty of nature can inspire an aesthetic response and a knowledge response. I am reminded of the scientifically inspired drawings of Victorian amateurs who managed to create beautiful scientific studies of natural forms,
DRAWING TEN: "MARNE'S MUSIC CLASS" by Natasha (age 12). When Marne, and elementary teacher in Victoria, B.C., sends home a report on a pupil's progress in music she asks the student to draw a fondly remembered moment.
DRAWING ELEVEN: "THE HAPPY GARDENER" by Richard (age 10). This is a truly remarkable mixture of spontaneity and meticulous detail. Don't miss the fiendish pussy cat stealing a flower while the gardener looks the other way!
WE ARE PLANNING A FAMILY CONFERENCE TO SEE IF WE CAN PERSUADE OUR POST-NAIVE KIDS TO JOIN US IN A DAILY DRAWING ADVENTURE. YES, WE PLAN TO DRAW WITH THEM AS PART OF A FAMILY DRAWING CLUB. I AM ALMOST CERTAIN THIS WILL ENCOURAGE OUR TWO CHILDREN TO PICK UP THEIR BALL POINTS AGAIN. DO YOU HAVE ANY LAST MINUTE ADVICE?
* As a matter of fact I do. I just received an email this morning from a parent who also has two post-naive children, a girl who is 15 and a boy who is 11. Laurie, the mother who is a former graphic arts student, has some interesting things to say.
LAURIE: "I am certain you must be wondering why my children aren't interested in the visual arts when I am an artist myself ....I don't really know why it turned out this way. I provided them with lots of opportunities to draw and express themselves visually ... Sarah used to enjoy it when she was young, but James never did want to draw or paint, not at home.... It was, of course, distressing to me at the time as I had faith in the methods describe in your pamphlets, I now know that they just are who they are and I've stopped worrying about it.
BOB: I understand your feelings, especially if James didn't show any interest in drawing as a young child. Extrapolating from James, I think we must assume that there is a body of children who, for one reason or another simply don't respond to drawing as we would expect them to, even when the opportunity is presented. Now at 11, James is into the early post-naive period where we might expect him to be suffering from the "I can't draw" syndrome but apparently he didn't want to draw in the first place.
* Sarah is more typical in that she did draw as a child but now as a teen-ager, prefers music. We have to recognize - and I'm saying this to myself as much as to you - that not all children are going to respond to drawing opportunities. Some, like James, may not.
* The 'daily draw' routine is still uncommon which means we don't have much evidence to go on. I would still feel that that all, or nearly all young children draw spontaneously in their early years and would respond positively to a "daily draw" regime, but I would guess that this is still relatively rare in family circles. Mind you, in saying this, I am not thinking of occasional bursts of drawing activity, or the adult providing drawing materials if the child is so inclined. I am thinking of fifteen or twenty minutes of scheduled drawing every day with adult participation, That, I think, is still quite rare. Rare still for post-naive children. Perhaps as the 'daily draw' routine catches on, there will be fewer and fewer disinterested children and fewer and fewer post-naives needing remediation!.
LAURIE: "I appreciated your comment that not all children should or will become lifelong drawers ... my children are definitely lifelong enthusiasts. Perhaps that is the most we can expect, in our family, at least."
"But this will interest you: This morning I was going through some of James' school work from last year and I came upon a drawing he had done of a rather elaborate battle scene...I should clarify that while he never seemed too interested in drawing when he was really little, and he never draws at home, he does fill pages at school with imaginary battle scenes (or imaginary creatures sometimes) ...quite interesting."
BOB: So James is a drawer after all! It sounds to me as though he came to drawing later than most kids and also planned it so he could choose his own time and place! I am reminded to say to all parents that the really important years for the "daily draw" routine are from the early figurative abstractions which children begin making at age three, or even earlier, until literacy begins to be functional, say, til the end of the primary grades.
Bob Steele, for the Drawing Network