Talented Toddlers, creating abstract art
WASSILY KANDINSKY, RUSSIAN ARTIST AND ART THEORIST, IS CREDITED WITH PAINTING THE FIRST MODERN ABSTRACT WORKS. IN DECEMBER 1911, HE PUBLISHED A PIONEERING WORK, CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL IN ART, A CLASSIC AND SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO THE HISTORY OF MODERN ART. IN THIS TRACT, KANDINSKY PROPOSED A VIRTUAL REVOLUTION IN PAINTING, ENCOURAGING ARTISTS TO EXPRESS THEIR OWN INNER LIVES IN ABSTRACT, NON-MATERIAL TERMS RATHER THAN THE REPRESENTATIONAL WORLD AROUND THEM. HE EXPLORED THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COLORS, THE LANGUAGE OF FORM AND COMPOSITION, AND DEFINED THE MEANING AND PHILOSOPHY OF NONOBJECTIVISM IN ART. IN THE 20th CENTURY, ABSTRACTION TRANSFORMED THE LANGUAGE OF ART PROVIDING A MORE INTELLECTUALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY DEMANDING PLATFORM THAN REPRESENTATION.
IN PREDICTING ARTISTIC BRILLIANCE, DRS. ELLEN WINNER AND JENNIFER DRAKE INVESTIGATE ABSTRACTION IN THE ART WORK OF THE ARTISTICALLY GIFTED CHILDREN. THEY CONCLUDE THAT THESE CHILDREN MAY ACTUALLY SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHERS AND WILL DISCOVER ADVANCED COMPOSITIONAL TECHNIQUES MANY YEARS BEFORE THEIR PEERS. THE SUBJECT OF CREATIVITY IN ALL ITS FORMS IS EXPLORED AND THE LIKELIHOOD OF A CHILD’S PURSUIT OF ART AS AN ADULT IS PREDICTED. IN AN EARLY 1997 PUBLICATION, GIFTED CHILDREN, MYTHS AND REALITIES, DR. ELLEN WINNER DOCUMENTS NINE MYTHS ABOUT GIFTEDNESS. 20 YEARS OF DEDICATION AND COMMITMENT TO THIS SUBJECT LATER, THIS ARTICLE UNDERLINES THE NEED ON THE PART OF PARENTS AND THE COMMUNITY TO CULTIVATE ART EDUCATION OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL’S LIMITED CURRICULUM.
THE LRFA BLOG IS PLEASED TO CONTINUE ITS POST OF THE ARTICLE. THANK YOU ELLEN AND JENNIFER!
We suspect, however, that producing works in a naturalistic style is not the only way to demonstrate artistic brilliance. Although most Western children identified as gifted in drawing have come to our attention by virtue of their precocious realism, some talented children have mastered a non- realistic style instead. Psychologist Claire Golomb of the University of Massachusetts Boston has described these children, whom she called “colorists,” as showing an awareness of form and quality and a concern with decorative and expressive aspects of color, texture and design. These artists are more difficult for an untrained eye to spot because their drawings may look similar to the charming, nonrealistic paintings of typical preschoolers.
Parents sometimes believe that their two-year-old is a prodigy because they notice the similarity of their child’s painting to that of an abstract expressionist master. Gallery owners, too, have been fooled by such paintings. In 2011, for example, four-year-old Aelita Andre had an exhibit in New York City and was touted as a genius on a par with Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky. These works, however, are age-typical, and we cannot yet call their maker artistically gifted—even if we find the paintings pleasing and superficially similar to works by abstract expressionists. (The film My Kid Could Paint That, directed by Amir Bar-Lev, asks whether parents and gallery owners are fooling the public into thinking these works are signs of genius.)
Other children, however, truly are precocious artists. Parents can nurture such giftedness when it exists. In the early years parents can encourage art-making behavior, provide high-quality art supplies, and take the child to museums and expose him or her to the range of styles in which artists have worked. Given the lack of attention and time devoted to art education in most schools, the opportunity to study art formally outside of school very likely is critical if the child is to go on to become an artist. In 2011 curator Ayala Gordon reported that almost all the 31 Israeli artists whose childhoods she studied had begun taking art lessons outside of school with artist-teachers by age 10. It was in these classes that they began to identify themselves as artists and to discover others like themselves. —J.E.D. and E.W.
We have recently discovered a child, whom we classify as artistically gifted, whose paintings are entirely nonrepresentational. His process does not resemble that of his peers, nor do his works. Several days shy of his second birthday, Arrian began to create colorful abstract drawings on large, 18- × 24-inch pages using Crayola markers, concentrating intensely. He usually works on each drawing for a day and a half to two days. He fills the entire space densely and meticulously. As his mother describes it:
One session for Arrian is typically a cycle through whatever set of markers he is using at the time. So,if he has a set of 24 he will systematically go through each marker one by one…. He often begins with some circles all over the page and long flowing lines. . . . Once he has his basic drawing he colors it in systematically—almost in quadrants.
A few months later his mother noted:
Ari is obsessed with making circles—he tries for hours to make the smallest, tightest, thinnest circles he can do. He tries all kinds of ways of holding the marker … experiments with putting his face really close to the page. He likes to dangle the marker to get a thin feather line but then tries with his fist to get a tighter circle—to hold it properly to gain control, and ultimately [he] seems to want to achieve some combination of all three to get the look he wants. He’s been doing this all day for a week—sometimes with just one or two colors.
When Arrian turned three, he discovered view- finders. For two weeks he carried around a comb through which he inspected the world. He also started drawing people at this time, right on track with typical development. Notably, he was not ahead of the curve in representational skill. He was, however, advanced in intensity: after drawing one face—a circle with eyes—he went on to draw about 400 more smiling visages, all in one sitting. The systematicity, intensity, focus and meticulous care with which Arrian draws set him apart from the typical two-year-old scribbler. None of the precocious realists we have studied show anything like Arrian’s behavior—they progressed rapidly to representational drawings and showed no interest in nonrepresentational art.
THE NEXT SECTION EXPLORES THE COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF ARTISTICALLY BRILLIANT CHILDREN THAT PREDICT WHO IS LIKELY TO BECOME AN ARTIST – COMPELLING THEORY FOR GALLERISTS, COLLECTORS AND ARTISTS ALIKE!
THANK YOU, ELLEN AND JENNIFER, FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION, AND THANK YOU ALL FOR FOLLOWING THE LRFA BLOG, YOUR COMMENTS AND SUPPORT!