Pablo Picasso is attributed to saying that, “When I was a child, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a child.” In the previous post (see: A Cornell Education), I mentioned that artists throughout modern and contemporary art history have looked at artwork by children for inspiration and asserted that most forms of art can be made accessible to individuals of all ages.
Anyone who has picked up a drawing utensil or paintbrush has gone through a foundational period of artistic development. The benchmarks for artistic development were presented by art educator Viktor Lowenfeld via his 1947 book, Creative and Mental Growth. Lowenfeld categorized how humans develop artistic behaviors and habits of mind during six stages, which he demarcated according to age-range. However, as we can deduce from the aforementioned quote by Picasso, age is not the best determinant for assessing where someone is in their course of development.
Art educator Linda Louis (2005) has observed that our desire to communicate, is supported by a multidimensional model of artistic development through three independent realms: representational intention, mastery of visual concepts and the expressive use of the mediating properties of materials. A person can be proficient in one realm, but emerging in another. This is why the term phases of artistic development is more suitable.
Understanding the phases of artistic development is important for all artists to master their craft because it enables them to move fluidly between various methods and modes of visual communication and symbolic expression. Since these phases are universally experienced (see: Artfully Ancient Learning), they can be referenced and revisited as a formative part of the artistic process. Additionally, knowing how and why we develop artistically can help older artists improvise, break out of creative blocks and get in touch with their inner child.
The Curtis family puts a playful spin on highlighting the phases of artistic development through an intergenerational artistic collaboration between father, Tom, and his sons Dom and Al. The impetus behind this project. was Tom’s fascination with the drawings his young sons were making, which spurred his curiosity of what they might look like if they were rendered by an adult. So he faithfully recreated the fantastical animal, human and humanoid forms from Dom and Al’s drawings using Adobe Photoshop. The juxtaposition of the original drawings and digital interpretations indicate how the same image can be re-presented based on a differentiated representational intention, mastery of visual concepts and the expressive use of materials. This is the crux of the artistic development spectrum.
Now that Dom and Al have gotten older, the Curtis family takes submissions of drawings from young artists throughout the world. You can see documentation of the process via their Instagram page, Things I have drawn.
References, Notes, Suggested Reading:
Louis, Linda L. “What Children Have in Mind: A Study of Early Representational Development in Paint.” Studies in Art Education, vol. 46, no. 4, 2005, pp. 339–355. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25475761. Accessed 13 Jan. 2020.
Lowenfeld, Viktor. Creative and Mental Growth. Macmillan Co., New York, 1947.