{December 5, 2011}   Savour the Moment

A friend shared on facebook a link for an art project where children’s drawings had been given to an established artist to turn into proper pieces of artwork.

Now your personal first response to my initial sentence probably offers you a good indication as to how you may feel about the rest of my blog.  If you think “wow, what a cool idea!” you may not entirely love the blog, while on-the-other-hand if you thought “what do you mean to say children’s art isn’t proper art” then your sentiments may be more closely aligned with my own.

The Monster Engine

I commented that while on the surface this sounded like an interesting project – and do please go have a look and make up your own mind – I’m concerned about what this sort of thing tacitly says to children, essentially “your pictures do not come up to my standards”.  Now please do not mistake my intention – I don’t wish to detract from this project or the incredible artwork (of all levels) contained within it – but more I want to highlight the possible ramifications and the ‘unsaid things’ of projects such as these which essentially seem to highjack things created by children.

In early years pedagogy there is a high level of importance placed on sustained shared thinking – a key outcome from a 2002 report (REPEY Report; Sirag-Blatchford et al., 2002).  This encourages practitioners to engage in high-level verbal interactions with children in order to support their on-going development.  Children’s art, or ‘mark making’ is viewed as a valuable tool at their disposal for communication…

Drawing is one of Reggio Emilia’s many languages (Malaguzzi, cited in Fillipini and Vecchi, 1997), used by children to talk about their worlds, both to themselves and to others.  Part fine motor skill development – with hand-eye coordination a key component – and part play, Athey (2007) sees drawing as a reflection of young children’s inner schematic representations.  Matthews (1999) concurs that, for younger children, mark making provides opportunity to explore the lines and curves of trajectory and enclosure schemas, for instance.  However, for older children between the ages of three and four, he views the drawing as located within a family of expressing and symbolic actions [which they] use fluently.  He goes on to describe the interpersonal arena between caregiver and infant that is core to young children’s drawings.  Early years practitioners, thus, should take children’s mark making seriously and look for opportunities to interact with children about their drawings.  However, caution is urged in over-analysing children’s without any reference to the child’s own narrative, and Ring’s research (2001) shows how, all too frequently, the role of drawing in children’s learning is misunderstood.  Emphasizing the interrelational aspect of drawing, Ring (2001) urges practitioners to explore the relationship between drawing as communication and drawing as art. [Supporting Pedagogy and Practice in Early Years Settings; Allen and Whalley; 2010:107]

When you explore child development, and see the stages – particularly with reference to fine motor skills which are required for drawing – you start to admire these drawings as ends in themselves.  Failing to appreciate each moment risks viewing human development (I extend it here as I feel that we all change and develop throughout our lives) as a conveyor belt towards death.

“Rising Five”

Norman Nicholson explores this very idea (I studied the poem at GCSE I think, and was reminded of it through thinking on this topic)

I want to celebrate each achievement in a life, not see it as a step towards the grave.  It is exciting when my daughter draws a picture; she’s recently started to include finer details such as arms and legs to pictures of those she knows and that’s really cool.  I don’t look at a drawing she hands me, and tells me about the bits she has included then turn to her and say “oh darling maybe next time include fingers!”  No I say, “wow, your Uncle will be so touched you drew a picture of him, what a kind idea, I love the different colours you’ve used.”

There’s a lot of issues today which seem to centre around worth, value and self-esteem; eating disorders; depression; anxiety; stress; addictions; abuse… I could (sadly) list far more.  We have to show people they are valued.  We need to encourage and challenge one another to treat people according to the value that God places on each and every one of us.

I’ve been away recently, meeting with those who try to live by Jesus principles, I was challenged and humbled by much of what I heard.  I also feel really uplifted by hearing peoples stories, being blessed by others sharing some of their daily lives and talking about what people of faith, followers of Christ, are doing in various countries across Europe and further afield in Africa and the USA.

One exciting thing for me personally to have come out of this weekend was a renewed sense that I’m in the right place.  I feel I’ve been encouraged in my work with young children and I’m excited how things may progress over the next few years.  I’m inspired by something I heard, and didn’t really fully comprehend at the time, during my teacher training that I should look to become an ambassador for children and young people… and that’s what I’m going to put my heart into.


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