My children love to watch me drawing and painting. They are full of questions about what they see there. They do not see all the years of training and practice it took to be able to sketch that fast. In their eyes it is magic.
Sometimes I like to sit down with them and watch them create art. They can have a full drawing completed in a short time and still be recognizable. For a person, it is often the bare minimal – circle for the head (with circles for the eyes and nose, and a curved smile), and simplified arms, legs, and body. I think we can learn a lot from child drawings. They are very minimal in nature. They do not include unnecessary details, only what is needed.
One thing I have learned from looking at child art, and watching my children draw is that:
Kids draw what they see, what they know, and what they are feeling.
They do not have any preconceived notions of how to draw, or abide by any drawing conventions. Child art uses only the kids imaginations to transfer ideas to paper. Their drawings are created with minimal lines. There is no excess.
As children grow older, drawings tend to lose this simplicity. Some kids try to copy their favourite cartoon or comic character, be it Pokémon, Spiderman, Disney Princess, etc.
They learn to imitate, and as they do, drawings become increasingly complex.
Remember that show Mr. Dressup? It was a Canadian children’s program that aired on CBC for quite a few years. I loved to watch it as a child. The main segment I looked forward to was when Mr. Dressup would sketch on a large sheet of paper. I was always fascinated with how he could complete a drawing so fast. Of course, he probably did a few preparatory sketches before taping the program, but as a child I did not realize that. I think watching this as a young child instilled in me the ambition to create at that level.
Many have watched Bob Ross painting on PBS. While in art school, my classmates and I had a debate about Bob Ross and whether his paintings should be considered “real art”. The general consensus was that it didn’t matter. Many of my classmates, and I’m sure millions of others also, were introduced to art at a young age because of Bob Ross’s television program Joy of Painting.
The way I look at it is that he was teaching young people how easy it is to paint. Every artist has to start somewhere. If they start off imitating Bob Ross, Mr Dressup, or anyone else, that is perfectly fine. The important thing is that if they decide to pursue art, they should “make it their own” . That is, discover their own style based on what they know, feel, and see.
As adult artists, simplifying art is a choice. Some artists strive for years to draw like a child. My personal tendency is to make my paintings full of detail and complexity. But, this is a very long and tiresome process. I have been working on ways to gradually simplify my paintings with each consecutive artwork completed.
Looking at child art is assisting me in that process.