7.21.2010

flipping over

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I was tidying up the refrigerator door, our art gallery, and reallocating Smootch's less recent artwork to a file, when something caught my eye.

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You know those pads of art paper for they sell for children that come with a "frame" for their artwork.  Usually some sort of adult drawn theme, rainbows, ocean life, flowers and such.  Smootch usually receives at least one of these 'framed' paper art pads every gifting holiday, along with some felts or crayons.  Smootch usually jumps on them, new art supplies are always welcome around here, and fills up the papers in due time.

Take a look at her pictures - do you notice the same thing I did?

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When Smootch draws inside the 'frame', she draws according to the theme set by the paper.  Fish and mermaids in the ocean theme, rockets in the space theme.  Heck, she draws, sometimes, exactly what she sees.

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This self limiting of subject matter Smootch does consistently whenever she uses these pre-framed papers.

But here is why I'm not freaking out.

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When Smootch decides to draw, she has a choice of papers in the drawer. Everything from newsprint, construction papers, quality pen and ink papers, a variety of neon sheets intended for the recycle but put in the drawer instead because of a blank backside, and whatever else happens to come our way, including these 'frame' art papers.  Lots of options.

Smootch, honestly, usually grabs whatever is on top. If she ends up with one of these frame papers, she has another choice to make: which side of the paper is the top and which is the bottom. There is, after all, a completely blank side and a 'framed' side. Our adult minds automatically assume the framed side is the front and the blank the back. But Smootch doesn't quite have all our rules down yet and considers both sides to be fair game.

When Smootch is in the mood to draw but does not have any particular subject in mind, she will often draw on the side with the 'frame', allowing the frame's theme to influence her. Watching her try to copy the pictures in the frame, I would make a guess that she is working on her technical drawing skills and learning how to 'see' something that she wishes to draw. She seems engaged and, dare I say, challenged.

However, when Smootch has something predetermined to draw that has nothing to do with the frame theme, she will flip the paper blank side up and follow her internal vision. The frame is on the back, ignored except as the side where she sometimes puts a dedication to whomever the drawing is for.

And that's just it, why I'm not concerned about these framed papers limiting Smootch's creativity. There are limits on almost everything we do. It's our choice whether we are going to internalize those limits and let them become our rules, or if we're going to go our own way. Sometimes it pleases us to stay within the frame set before us and go with the flow. There is value in harmony, even if we didn't choose the tune. Other times, we have to completely reject the frame, flip the whole thing over, and do our own thing.

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I would love to get rid of the art frame paper entirely and never put limits on Smootch's drawings (except for the size of the paper, and the marking materials, and the paper itself and not the wall or her brother, and some other stuff but I think you get the idea).  But it think it would just as restrictive to say that this paper is good but this other one is bad, based my own aesthetic judgments and justifying them through the greater good of supposed unlimited creativity.  Instead, when it comes to her art at least, I will let her find the world just as it is and let her grow and learn with it's many imperfections and limitations. 

Besides, there are so many other areas of her life where I get to restrict what she does and where she does it.  I think I can take a break on this one just a bit, yes?

7 comments:

  1. I spotted the same thing you did!!1 Funny little girl...I know what you mean about limiting their imagination. Maybe stick the framed ones at the bottom of the pile and see if she still chooses them...probably not. I wonder if she is even aware that they are influencing her drawings :)

    Love your posts...I get all excited when there is a new one :)

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  2. I refused to let Violet use coloring books for a long time, having read that it limits their creativity. I realize now that sometimes you just need to color, without the stress of creation.

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  3. I think having the limitations, like the predesigned coloring books and the frame, are good. It helps children to start to learn societal rules (that may be taking the thought a bit far, but they are learning "rules.") Even with the limitations she will still learn to use her own judgement to guide her art. Think about it, how often have we seen children color in the lines but use the color blue for grass or green for their sibling? It's their way of expression and it is good for them.

    Sometimes I feel the need to be crafty but I need guidance to get started which is why I turn to craft blogs and templates. Then when the inspiration has sunk in I go to work all on my own. Maybe that is what she is doing, finding inspiration and testing the water.

    XOXO, your thoughts serve as inspiration for the rest of the parental community! I use your thoughts to fuel my own and often I find that I agree with you.

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  4. I've noticed, from being an elementary art teacher, that giving a child a blank piece of paper can sometimes be the most frightening thing to them.

    I figure as long as they find inspiration, I don't care where they get it from- whether it be a stencil, texture plates, or being influenced by a story they just read, as long as they are creating I am happy and so are they.

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  6. Why do you see this as limiting her creativity? Aren't art lessons full of copying and exercises to master a certain technique? When my son draws like this I praise him for now being able to draw a rocket, seahorse, etc. I wouldn't worry if I were you.
    P.S. I really like your blog!

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  7. I remember reading somewhere (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, maybe?) that trying to draw an object as seen rather than as an icon is something children grow into at about nine. So maybe she's just a few years ahead :) I think art requires many skills and creativity is just one. Learning to see accurately is also important as is control over materials.

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