Thesis: Preschoolers Drawing Development

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Preschoolers Drawing Development

Artistic development: Preschool children

As both funding and time grows scarce within the public school system, arts education is often shelved in favor of more conventional academic subjects. Even preschool age children are often subject to preparation for kindergarten, rather than allowed to explore and 'make a mess' with artistic materials. However, just like language, art is a learned skill, even though the impulse to create may be innate. Understanding the process of artistic development at a young age, and how preschool artistic skills develop into later artistic processes and creative abilities is essential to improve arts education, and the usefulness of the skills learned in creative arts are vital to justify the continued importance of artistic education within the school system.

Children's artistic development, much like children's moral development and understanding of the conservation of matter is thought to proceed through four stages, moving towards a clearer and more concrete approximation of reality. This idea is somewhat controversial as it "is based on the popular view that the desired 'end state' of this progression is graphical realism" (Young in art, 2007, Introduction, p.1). During the first stage of scribbling, students take delight in the physical act of putting marks on paper, although they may name their scribbles afterwards in some effort to create representational art (Young in art, 2007, Scribbling, p.2). "Characteristic and universal patterns, such as representational graphic patterns, spatial patterns (how to create depth/space on two-dimensional surfaces), and so on, seem to emerge with cognitive development and physical growth at an early age...For example, regardless of ethnic and cultural differences, toddlers start to draw scribbles first and there is no referential meaning in drawings" (Toku 2002). The fact that most artistic development begins cross-culturally with scribbling reinforces the sense that more concrete representation is superior to process-based scribbling in some of the literature. However, simply scribbling imparts necessary motor skills that are important in more exact drawing later, as well as in writing language.

During the second, pre-symbolic phase, figure-like structures emerge (Young in art, 2007, pre-symbolism, p.3). The symbolic phase is when "children develop unique schemas or representations of figures: since a child has established a definite symbol (or schema) for a person, it will be repeated again and again without much variation unless a particular experience causes the child to modify the concepts involved" (Young in art, 2007, Symbolism, p.4). The parallel might be with how words come to represent people, places, things, and concepts. Preschool children tend to draw these schemas without any sense of spatial relationships, doubt because of the lack of concept of space and depth, as observed by Piaget. In this second stage, "figures are drawn as floating figures and objects" (Toku 2002). Gradually, "the influence of culture and technology emerges strongly in children's drawings especially in elementary school, leading them to produce new and different characteristics in their drawing patterns depending upon the cultural and technological context" (Toku 2002).

Finally, "with age, children use the bottom line of the drawing paper as a ground line and all figures and objects are drawn standing on the bottom line of the paper...Then children start to draw a baseline on the paper instead of using the bottom of the paper as the ground base...they use the technique of overlapping with figures, objects, and even with the ground to show space and depth on a two-dimensional surface (Toku 2002). These developments suggest that "whereas younger children become engrossed in the meanings and actions of subjects as they draw them, older children tend to be more concerned with whether their pictures resemble what it is they are drawing" (Young in art, 2007, Realism, p.5).

During the realistic phase of artistic development, children may grow frustrated that their art does not resemble reality, or their aims for the final outcome of the piece. They take less pure delight in the process, and unless supported by further education (artistic development is not universal and innate without instruction) their use of art may be shelved in favor of other interests. Cultural differences also become more in evidence with age and the drive to create more realistic and end-based artistic products: "at least three unique patterns of spatial treatment appeared in Japanese children's drawings which American children seldom used" (Toku 2002). Preschool children in both America and Japan show universal features in their scribbling, such as more of an emphasis on circles than straight-line objects, given motor skill challenges. Yet amongst older children standards such as "Eisner's 14 spatial categories" that are used to judge spatial order and artistic development is not be universally applicable -- Japanese student's drawings, the influence of the Japanese educational system's study of perspective, cultural and aesthetic factors, and pop culture including cartoons are thought to have a greater influence on children's art (Toku 2002).

These subtle culture differences indicate that it is problematic in making realism the gold standard of artistic development. What is defined as realism varies from culture to culture, thus children's early art must also be embraced, and not simply seen as a stage on the way to realism. Amongst professional artists, after all, trying to render the world realistically is not considered a virtue -- otherwise Picasso and abstract impressionists would not hold the place of esteem they do today. "Since at least the eighteenth century, the contention that an artist has used abstraction in creating a work of art means that he or she has uncovered the essence of a thing" in the professional art world (Zimmer 2008, p.286). "The artist is thought to arrive at this essence by throwing away everything that is peculiar to a particular instance of an object or a particular moment of time, leaving only the essential, universal properties of the object or scene" (Zimmer 2008, p.286)

The goal of art education is for preschoolers to retain their unself-conscious love of the artistic process while still building upon improved motor, cognitive, and recognition skills. Yet despite the fact that individual's artistic 'careers' often do not carry on past the school-age phase of realism, unlike writing, for preschoolers, using art is often much more effective to deal with and discuss powerful emotions than mere words, suggesting that graphic art has a unique use and value within the educational system that cannot be dismissed. For example, in dealing with traumatized victims of Hurricane Katrina, art therapy was found to be particularly useful in helping the children become more open abut their experiences. The children's drawings were "populated by alligators, dead birds, helicopters and rescue boats" despite the fact that they were reluctant to talk about their experiences (Dewan 2007).

The research, both popular and academic highlights the loss that will occur if, because of time and budgetary restraints, art education is relegated to second-place status. The motor skills and creativity fostered by art is uniquely beneficial to children. But when art is used in schools, it is often digital, rather than tactile. In the war of crayon vs. computer, technology seems to be willing. Yet for very young children: "If I have a tactile tool and feel the texture of crayon on paper, and it has a smell with it, it has more power for a young brain. It is more logical for a young brain because of the ability to see the direct result of action....A child of 3, 4 or 5 sees things as very direct.In line with theories of child development, touching a mouse to get a reaction on a screen is abstract thinking and not as effective at that early stage" said one teacher (Geracimos 2004).

If, in the interests of furthering children's comfort levels with the computer at an early age, art education in a hands-on manner is eliminated, what will be lost? Scribbling seems to form… [END OF PREVIEW]

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