During the workshop that we conducted for children, I came across a 4 year old child named Moksha who created an interesting shape of a Car. He was very original with the process and the creation although completely unaware of it. But it was very pleasing to the eye. Why? I did not know.
Before finding the answer, Let me introduce you to Moksha’s car
Here’s Moksha so deeply lost in creation. This kind of deep concentration is unlikely in us adults. As a part of the workshop, he was given some pages of magazine, a fevicol tube and some pieces of mirror for creating a collage. He started sticking torn pieces of paper with fevicol initially and during the process he got hooked to the fevicol. He started pouring a large quantity of fevicol to create something.
|Moksha's Fevicol Cars|
Moksha’s first car was entirely made out of Fevicol and had 2 round mirrors for the wheels. The other car he created was also fully made of Fevicol but one wheel was round and other was rectangular. Both these cars have a bizarre yet beautiful shape and unconventional wheels made of unconventional material.
This was a completely innovative way of creation. He had no inhibition to select a rectangular wheel for the car.
It does not mean that he did not have the knowledge of what a car is; fact is that he came for the workshop in his father’s car. Then how did he come up this distortion?
Although he had seen the car, he had bypassed the practical knowledge that this car may not work on the road. And this was not done intentionally, as he may not have known the word “PRACTICAL” yet. Although he was able to see the reality, it had not affected his creativity. That benefited him to create something that an artist tries to achieve: Complete freedom from the known and a simplification of expression. His unintended pursuit in ignoring the practical knowledge about workings of the car and simply giving in to the instincts of creation helped him create something new. He was creating art with free mind and simplicity of expression. He had his powerful, uninhibited expression intact. He was not even aware that his creation was original and pleasing to the eye.
With this thought I started checking out young children’s drawings/paintings in newspapers/displayed contests. To my surprise they all created paintings that were aesthetically beautiful.
Take a look at these paintings. Aren’t they beautiful and extremely original?
These are created by children between ages 4 to 7 years
What makes these paintings so pleasingly beautiful? This question is more interesting when we realize that the children who created these paintings did not have any formal training in art.
While beauty is subjective to a larger extent, there are a few common grounds on which certain art can give visual pleasure to the eye and qualify as aesthetically beautiful. Properties like beauty of form, expression, composition are necessary ingredients of good art. Also, few traits that appeal to the viewer are genuineness and sincerity of expression, spontaneity and originality of creation.
If I check all the above paintings with these parameters, I find that the above paintings fulfill most of the parameters.
Then are these children born artists? Do they have an inherent capability to create beauty without a formal knowledge of aesthetics?
According to the researches that have gone in finding answers to these questions, Children don’t have any aesthetical knowledge as such at this very young age. But with their limited perception, they can create simplified primitive symbols which can be traced to forms found in a Modern artist’s work. So the children’s art looks like modern art which a trained modern artist creates by making deliberate efforts of simplification. By default human brain is attracted to simplification. Experiments in Neurology have revealed that we have an attraction to primitive symbols ( e.g. cave art ). So it is possible that children’s art attracts the eye because of its beauty of simplification and primitivism.
The Research paper ‘Art of Children’ (REFERENCE 1) states that Children are not creating any aesthetic beauty intentionally. Furthermore, It is normally misunderstood that younger children draw/paint like this because of lack of skill. Although not entirely true, the fact is that children have different focus while they draw/paint. This focus could be sticking to primitive symbols in their brains or simplification by selecting only what they find necessary/interesting or their unintentional irreverence and unconcern for the reality.
In Moksha’s case he knows that wheels are round but since nobody ever told him wheels cannot be anything else but round, he is unaware of the practical implication of it. That has benefited him in his creation - however bizarre - yet extremely interesting.
A young child will go from simple thought process to a complex thought process as he grows. He is not exposed to a lot of experiences during his young age so his knowledge is limited but his primitive ideas/forms are intact. Once he grows with his age, he is influenced by external information which leads to a muddling of primitive ideas. Young children have a benefit that they don’t ‘KNOW’, so they do not have to unlearn anything to simplify their vision. Children are able to make use of that small information and create something simple yet beautiful, An abstract artist on the other hand has grown a lot of structure in his thoughts so he has to unlearn to break free from rigidity and structure to go towards simplification.
A Child is driven by simplification and process of creation itself than realism, visual logic, neatness, conventional rules and acceptability by peers.
Many modern artists greatly admired children’s art like Paul Klee, John Miro, Gutai Artists.
Paul Klee gave a lot of importance to art created by children with respect to his artistic exploration. He was looking for simplicity in creation which he found in younger children’s art. Paul Klee used to study drawings of his child as well as used to collect other children’s drawings. When he found a portfolio of his childhood works, he was mesmerized and commented that those were some of his most significant works. He endlessly practiced child-like vision in his creation and searched for pure, un-corrupted expression of a new-born.
The research paper ‘Paul Klee and Art of Children’(REFERENCE 3) states that: ‘Klee does not indulge in ‘childishness’ in his drawings, rather it is the activity of honesty. It is like a newborn child making a “tiny but real act” born of necessity. Paul Klee has said “remain open through life, much favored child, child of creation” What Paul Klee and children have in common is the honesty and wonder of seeing with unobstructed eye’. It also states that the child forms his image quite naturally drawing from within-the inner eye or imagination, and without – the outer eye or world of nature. His representation of this image is direct; his creations are driven by inner certainty or necessity and not by outside logic or influence.
Also, Gutai Artists greatly followed a children’s magazine ‘Giraffe’ for artistic inspiration. They also greatly admired and tried to implement the uninhibited attitude of children. When I read further about these artists, I found great similarity between the process of Moksh’s fevicol car and one particular artist Shimamoto Shozo’s work ‘holes’ . Shimamoto Shozo , was working on an improvised canvass which he made by sticking layers of newspaper to a wooden frame. While he started drawing on it, the newspaper ground accidentally tore open, to which Shimamoto responded by deliberately making holes all over the surface. And that was his finished work. He simply gave in to the process and to the chance physical action with material.
And what did Moksha do? The same. A chance physical action with material. He liked the fevicol drippings so much that he simply stopped sticking pieces of paper and worked with fevicol alone just to have the chance physical action with fevicol. As if he knew Gutai artists!
While I was astonished with the younger children’s built in capabilities and wondered how far they could go, I took a pause and gave a thought about Moksha and his possible future. Here it goes:
When Moksha will go to a school; he will be so excited to create something new. This time he will decide to create a car with triangular wheels. But the teacher will see his work and try to teach him that the wheels are always round. He will ask ‘But my car wants to have triangular wheels’. ‘Why can’t it have?’
‘No. that’s not possible. How can a car have triangular wheels? Are you silly?’ The teacher might say.
There! He will be bound to think : ’oh I should not create the wheels the way I want. I should abide by what they say. Or they will call me silly’.
He will stop imagining beyond the limits because he will be afraid of being called silly. He will become “sane”. And he will draw a car like a car. Without fevicol , without rectangular/triangular wheels without imagining what his car could be. He will draw it with round wheels. He might not find fun in drawing it but still he will complete it till the class is over.
After visualizing his possible future, I got some clues for why kids like Moksha can become less and less creative with growing years and started looking for answers to what are the other factors that contribute to this diminishing creativity, originality and self driven exploration.
I checked out paintings in age group 8 and above, to check whether this phenomenon is true. And it is indeed true. Take a look of these paintings by children of age group 9 to 12; although these paintings are more in line with reality and trying to follow the rules of drawing, they are less aesthetically appealing, less original and less experimental.
The creative thinking and exploration starts diminishing once formal training starts either in the school or special classes. Creating out of a same old mold and didactic ways of learning shuts off the creativity. The way of perceiving and depicting certain idea/object does not come from an inner feeling but rather it is imposed from outside based on reality/conventions. The soul of the work is lost somewhere and what we see is a pretty same old work with no originality and caliber to surprise and please the eye. Many researchers have studied young children’s art and possibilities why the artistic creation degrades after a certain age.
Art of children A Research paper(REFERENCE 1) greatly looks into the reasons, It helped me find out many factors ranging from conventional pedagogy to children’s own psychology:
Older children may not have a lack of ability to create but they have a shift in their focus of concern. They have the ability to be imaginative but they focus on realism instead. Making spontaneous, inventive drawings may not be older children’s priority. And this results in decline to aesthetic sensitivity due to too much indulgence in skill mastery and no interest in exploration and creative action.
Older children do not draw for the enjoyment of drawing, they draw with some aim, and also with growing age there’s a shift in focus (with studies of other subjects etc) and the priorities change. Learning existing knowledge (that’s taught to them in schools/or through other mediums) is so exhaustive that their interest in exploring and creating “new” is lost. Information is bombarded on them. To be more acceptable by the authority and also by peers, they have a tendency to follow the conventions. The inclination is towards following the rules and not to be left out. Importance to spontaneity of thought, unconventional, original ideas, and imagination is ignored. Sometimes, it is even deliberately hidden to fit to the conventions even by the children themselves. When this uninhibited expression is kept hidden and un-nurtured, it is lost forever. Creation is more outcome oriented than process oriented, so older children’s frequency of drawing without aim simply indulging in process of creation also decreases. It may happen that the children who do not/can not draw as per the standards are considered ‘not good’ at drawing by the authority, parents or sometimes even the children themselves. Some children may not be good at drawing activity but good at reflecting and appreciating a piece of art and able to write or sing or compose something by getting creative inspiration from the Art. But because the focus is only on production and not on art-appreciation/reflection or cross domain creativity, they are discouraged to interact with Art. With growing age the acquaintance and interaction to creativity/art is disconnected. The children who show some talent in art also focus on realism/technicality/stereotype than spontaneity/experimentation. These older children can perceive aesthetic properties but do not seem to be concerned about them and they can not consciously put their knowledge of aesthetic properties in their creation.
Contrary to this younger children take more daring steps towards creation because they are ignorant of both outcome and knowledge. They do not have knowledge of realism, perspective. It acts as benefit to allow complete freedom of imagination in their creativity. Also they are not cautious of making mistakes. So they are freely discovering their creativity with confidence though they are less competent. They do not care about end results; they are more involved and forget themselves in process of making.
May be more factors need to be explored, and once we know the reasons, the bigger question is are there any possible remedies to retain children’s creative ability with their growing age?
My research continues with these open ended questions…
1. The Art of Children’s Drawing: Elizabeth Rosenblatt and Ellen Winner
2. Art, Mind and Brain: Howard Gardner
3. Paul Klee and Art of Children : Ellen Marsh
- By Shiwalee