Looking through Children’s Eyes

Sean Goddard

For children the physical act of drawing and creating is a key part of their development and helps them perceive the world around them in a manner suited to their growing minds. But what can we as young artists stepping out into the real world take away from it? 

Children’s art has taken on an important role in our society since the late 19th century, inspiring many great artists seeking to tap into the imagination and unrestrained creativity children possess and instill that essence in their works, even Picasso looked to the drawings of his children for inspiration.

“The impulse of the artist has its roots in the happy semi-conscious activity of the child at play, the all-engrossing effort to ‘utter’, that is, give outer form and life to an inner idea, and that play-impulse becomes the art-impulse when it is illuminated by a growing participation in the social consciousness.” 

– James Sully 

The first period of a child’s drawing is known as the ‘Scribble Stage’, usually between 18 months to 3 years of age and a time dominated by loosely controlled lines and repetitive patterns as children begin to develop their motor skills and explore the craft through play and experimentation. While they might appear as just scribbles to most, children at this age can identify certain objects being represented in the scribble, to them the object is rendered during the process through symbolic play, rather than the end results we see on paper.  

From the ages of 2 to 4, the ‘Pre-Schematic Stage’ sees basic forms begin to take shape, swirls and scribbled lines becoming flowers or tadpole-like figures representing friends and family members with large circular heads and sticklike arms and legs jutting out.  

At 5 to 8 years, children entering the ‘Schematic Stage’ see noticeable improvements in detail and realism and children begin to develop their own unique drawing style, beginning to draw certain objects the same across different creations and engaging verbally with them, often creating stories that intertwine with and explain their drawings while they work.   

For children, oftentimes it’s the physical process of creating that they draw meaning from. Free from the concept of a final product or end goal, the journey is where the magic happens, with children tending to emphasise more on their creations as an interactive opportunity to explore or express themselves and their experiences as they perceive and interpret the world they inhabit.  

Matisse saw a child-like perspective as a necessity – “the artist has to look at everything as though (they) saw it for the first time”. It can be equated with the sense of freedom or freshness we all begin within life that seems to fade away with the passing of time and accumulation of life experiences. While the context of these experiences such as uni, work and our social lives will always differ vastly from that of a young child, the process of coming into new environments and going through a period of great change and transition is something we can all relate to, regardless of age. Like children, we too still undergo perpetual growth every day, albeit a lot slower and more gradual, and perhaps the key to seeing through the eyes of a child is in realising that like a child’s drawing, life occurs during the process, not the final product. 

Words: Sean Goddard, Storehouse Content Team, @sn_gddrd

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