I recently assisted my granddaughter, Amanda, as she painted with water-soluble tempera colors in our backyard. Like most four-year-olds, she loves to draw and paint, and although her drawings have become increasingly controlled pictures of herself, her parents, five pets, and her home, the paintings are still joyous explorations of color.
On this particular day, I suggested that Amanda paint a representation of one of the flowers she has been learning to identify in her grandmother’s garden. “I don’t know how,” she told me, so I showed her a simple way of painting a long line for the stem, short marks for leaves, and circular shapes for the flowers. I suggested she think about one of the flowers she has watched grow, and Amanda immediately began to expand on the techniques I demonstrated. While painting, she offered a running commentary about the developing image. “The flower has green here, orange there, yellow inside the green, and blue over here,” she said with absolute assurance as she moved a brush loaded with dripping paint across the paper.
A few minutes later, Amanda announced that her painting was finished and she would put it aside to dry so that she could give it to her mommy, and then she clipped another sheet of paper on the easel so she could paint a flower for her grandmother. The second painting was also of a specific flower Amanda had in mind.
What I most enjoyed about listening to and watching Amanda was the way she quickly put aside her concern about not knowing how to paint a flower, and how seamlessly she moved between worlds of reality and fantasy. Like most children, Amanda’s imagination exerts a strong influence on her thoughts and actions. Her mental image of a flower was only loosely connected to the knowledge she gained from walking through her grandmother’s garden and learning the names of plants and how they grow.
Drawing and painting are so important to the intellectual, physical, and emotional development of children, and that’s the reason all artists, art-material retailers, and art-material manufacturers share a concern about the decrease in support for the visual arts in schools. If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or teacher, you have seen how drawing and painting can increase self-expression and self-awareness, and how those activities help connect real experiences to abstract concepts. I’d be interested in reading about your experiences in working with and observing young artists.
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American Artist is participating in a comprehensive study to find out how you currently use artists' paints and surfaces and what products you might want to try or have changed to better suit your needs. What do you like best about acrylic paints? What would you change about oil colors? Do you use watercolors because they are portable or because they are water-soluble? Those are the types of easy questions you will be asked to respond to if you participate in the survey.
I recently completed the survey and really liked having the chance to speak directly to companies that make products I use for drawing and painting. I encourage you to click on the link below and take a few minutes to offer your opinions.