How do children come to making art so effortlessly? Is there really such thing as a natural gift when drawing and painting?
I hear you I do - this question has been asked many times in my workshops and exhibitions. I've seen myself as a mum how easily my children pick up the brushes, pens, paper and scissors and crack straight on with making their masterpieces with absolutely no hesitation or questioning. They just bang straight on and it's a joy to observe.
So why is it that children seem to be as free as birds in their own creativity and how can we emulate it as adults?
As a full time artist, it only takes a few days away from my studio for me to get twitchy - I say twitchy, others closest to me might say grumpy! Don't get me wrong, breaks are important and must be taken, but after a few days I begin to feel out of the zone and a bit disconnected to making art. I know that is very natural but it still leaves me feeling jumpy because I know that when I do return to my drawing board, I'm going to be a bit lost until the magic begins to happen once again.
I believe that this is true of all of us. It doesn't matter if you are Da Vinci himself or a hobby painter, after time away from doing it, we lose confidence and as adults we begin to question our abilities and our confidence can plummet - in the extreme this can be known as a block.
When we make art for pleasure, by it's very nature we can't be doing it all the time and those breaks in between can play havoc with our morale - if the work that we are producing when we sit down to enjoy our leisure activity doesn't match up to what we wanted to produce we have a problem and this is where we grown up's get understandably frustrated.
So what's the solution? Well, the following things work for me.
1. Understand that when I get back into my studio I'm going to have a dodgy day - it may only be the first hour, a morning or a full day. I try hard not to give into my inner critic which loves to make me feel rubbish by nagging away at me about how my painting is not going to work and that I should just give up and take the dog for a walk, go home, pack up and just do the washing up.
2. Stick on the radio, an audio book or some music that I enhances my mood. The aim for this time is just to do and not to over think it.
3. Think like a child would... read on...
Come to the page like a child and do your best to be in that moment only.
Over the years I have run hundreds of children's workshops and I love doing so. Time watching children do art fills me with confidence and helps me to rediscover the pure joy of making art. About 8 years ago I started a business called 'Artypops' which ran after school art classes and holiday workshops, I still run them occasionally because I get as much from doing them as the children do.
Artypops taught me how to emulate the gusto that children have when coming to do art. Faced with papers, scissors, paint, pencils, beads and glue children unleash themselves in a totally unconstructed way, showing no inhibition. When I was at Edinburgh College of Art in the early 90's my dissertation was all about how children learn through creativity and what a great subject it was to study. There is much written and research around this subject but the main points I learned were that children explore their environment by putting it all down on paper - they make sense of the world around them by putting it down paper - pavements or the nearest wall to them! They work it out on paper (or mud, or anything they have to hand) - it's new, it's instinctual and it's lovely to watch.
As children grow to be 5+ they still have a love of all things creative. This post isn't meant to be a deep insight to the workings of the children's mind, but it is about how we as adults can learn from the energy that children have when coming to do something, anything creative.
Think like a child when getting out your brushes, your pens, your clay - whatever it is that you are engaging with. Try hard not to have the final picture in mind when you are making your work. Lose the end game and immerse yourself in the action. When I get to my drawing board next Monday, I'll be limbering up by splattering around some ink, tuning into Radio 4 and actually doing the action of making some art. I'll do this for a day or maybe two until my confidence grows enough again to start working on my commissions or exhibition paintings.
Try it, come to your work as a child would. Switch on your radio, understand your inner critic is trying to protect you by keeping you safe and not doing anything that is out of the ordinary - thank it for it's concern and carry on, THE FRUITS WILL COME because by doing it, we get better and you'll be making the artworks you dream about making.
I'd love to know if you have any advice or idea's that others might benefit from, please share them below in the comments and let's cover our worlds in art!
Tags: Doing art, leisure painting, painting, drawing and printmaking, doing art with children, hobby art, hobby painting, watercolour art, art for art's sake.