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With about six months of practice, the child will be more deliberate and may start drawing circles.

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Later, the child will name the drawing, saying, "This is a dog. In this stage, the amoeba or tadpole people may have faces, hands, and even toes, but no bodies. These figures face front and often have big smiles. Omission of body details is not a sign that something is developmentally wrong. It just means that other things in the drawing of the person are more important. For example, heads are the first objects drawn and may continue to be bigger than other parts of the body.

This is usually done because the child sees the head as being very important. The child eats, speaks, sees, and hears with parts of the head. Colors are selected on whim and usually have no relationship with what is being drawn. Figures may be scattered all over the page, or the page turned in every direction as the figures fill the paper. Objects and figures may appear to float all over the page because children do not yet know how to express three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface.

The child's self-portrait appears as an amoeba person, but it will usually be the biggest figure, appearing in the center of the page. The child may test different ways to draw a self-portrait before settling on one for a period of time.

Ink Matters: Expressions of the Heart

In this instance, art helps define a child's self image. At this time, the child has developed specific schema, or symbols for people and objects in his or her environment, and will draw them consistently over and over. Human figures have all necessary body parts. Arms and legs also fill out, instead of being stick-like. This is usually due to more body awareness and recognition of what body parts do; e.

Adults usually have very long legs because that is how children see them.

Houses and people no longer float on the page. They are grounded by a baseline that acts as a horizon line. As the child continues to draw, there may be two or more baselines to show distance or topography. Children may also draw a series of pictures, like cartoon squares, to show action sequences over time. This seems to reflect a child's desire to tell stories with the drawings. By eight or nine years of age, children will often draw their favorite cartoon characters or superheroes. Here, the child begins to develop more detail in drawing people and in determining perspective depth or distance in drawings.

Shapes now have form with shadows and shading. The people they draw show varying expressions. Colors are used to accurately depict the environment, and more complex art materials may be introduced. Children at this stage are eager to conform and are very sensitive to teasing or criticism from classmates. They also are very critical of their work, individually or when it is compared to the work of others.

Children at this stage can be easily discouraged about creating art if they are overly criticized, teased by their peers, or become frustrated with art media or problems expressing what they see in their minds. This is the time to begin quality art instruction, where children receive the technical training in mastery of art media, perspective, figure drawing, and rendering shading. Somewhere between ages 12 and 16 years, children face a crisis in artistic development. They will either already have enough skill and encouragement to continue a desire to create art, or they will not.

If it is only a matter of training, finding appropriate art classes will help the child through this crisis. If the child has been discouraged by criticism or lack of enough art experience or exposure, the child may not continue to draw or partcipate in visual art activities.

Some discouraged children may change to a different art medium. For example, a child may not draw or paint again, but may enjoy making clay pots or welding metal sculptures. Other children will find alternate ways to express their creativity. For example, a child may become involved with auto detailing, fly-tying, sewing, or needlework. Still others will never participate in any other kind of artistic activity and may ridicule or disdain those who do. Generally, children's drawings are no cause of alarm, despite color choice or content. They are merely artistic expressions and may present a variety of emotions, representations, and themes that are explored and then discarded.

Nevertheless, if a young child is repeatedly drawing violent pictures, there may be reason to seek out a therapist for the child to see if deeper emotional issues exist. For teenagers, especially those who are artistic, entertaining a dark period or even a quasi-violent Goth or vampire series of art work may simply be artistic exploration of darker themes. If this period of art work is coupled with risky behaviors or depression, it may represent a cry for help and therapy may be appropriate.

Other indicators of possible emotional problems may be drawings of a particular object or person much bigger than a drawing the child makes of himself or herself, or a drawing of a human figure in disjointed parts. In these cases, a child should be evaluated by a therapist because drawings of this sort usually indicate being overwhelmed by something or feeling fragmented. Drawings with incomplete or hesitant lines may indicate that a child feels unsure or insecure. Children who make these drawings may just need encouragement. Further evaluation may be necessary if these kinds of drawings continue for a long period of time.

Since artistic expression and appreciation is an element of a balanced life, encouragement by parents and other adults is essential.

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Adults can encourage art expression by offering art materials to children at an early age. Even toddlers can make drawings with fat crayons, as crayons are non-toxic. Art materials should be good quality. The materials do not need to be expensive, but they should be good enough so that they perform as they are intended. For example, a child may be given a set of colored markers; but if they do not flow well or are dried up, the child can become discouraged because the tools do not function properly. Children also enjoy experimenting with a variety of art materials.

Using chalks, pastels, charcoal, and pencils of different softness expands the artistic possibilities that crayons and markers begin. This variety allows a child to explore different media and how they behave. No child is expected to become the master of any or all of these media, but the experience with each helps them expand their artistic voice and opens up greater appreciation for artwork by others found in museums or created by their fellow classmates.

Adults can encourage artistic expression by allowing children to use the media they have experimented with in ways that are truly unique. Adults can make sure that children know that drawings are not always Drawing by a young child depicting a family. Children's drawings become expressions of how and what each child sees.

Adults can help children understand that art is self expression and that there is nothing wrong with what the child chooses to express. Artistic risk taking, experimentation, and the development of meaning are intrinsic to making art, and children can begin to understand these concepts through their own artistic efforts. Exposure to a variety of visual art at an early age can encourage a child's lifelong appreciation of art. This can be in the form of quality children's picture books that have beautiful illustrations.


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Trips to art galleries and museums can broaden a child's exposure to a variety of artists, styles, and content. Visiting artists at art shows or art fairs can also be a way to show children how artists work or handle different media.

Adults can extend this exposure through discussions about the art works and talking about media or content. Children's responses to their own drawings and their perception of the level of their competence is often affected by the attitudes of their peers and adults who react to their art work. Direct and indirect criticism of a child's drawings should be avoided. When children are very young, it is sometimes difficult for adults to figure out just what a child's drawing is about. In order to avoid quashing young talent or a child's self-esteem by commenting on the beautiful bee the child drew when it really was a dog, adults can praise the child for having made something wonderful and then ask the child to tell about the drawing.

From the answer, the adult can then praise the child's work in context.

For example, if the child brings a drawing of yellow and blue scribbles, the adult can say, "What beautiful colors! Tell me about your picture. Does he like to fly? Criticism can occur constructively when children enroll in technical art classes. There is a context in the art education setting for mastery of art media and technique. The normal preschool or elementary classroom is not the place for this kind of critique. In the wake of her artist statement, it was easy to imagine Walker giving up her traumatic, triggering tableaux for something more banal, like naturalistic landscapes.

But Her Canvases Scream. All the agony, energy, and violence of the streets of Charlottesville , Dallas , and Ferguson filled the gallery when I perused the selection of works in early October. Black-and-white figures and silhouettes of paper and linen, drawn and collaged, were there slanting their eyes, smirking, and contorting their faces with expressions of passion and pain. The bluntness of that statement brought me back to something the artist told me in , at the site of the former Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, during an interview I was conducting for Complex.

As we both gazed upon her foot-tall sugar sculpture that crossed a sphinx with a black mammy—and attracted more than 10, viewers per day—she said, "I don't make subtle work. Instead, her art incites. Of the scores of contemporary artists who take on race as a subject matter, the California-born Walker is most successful when it comes to pulling at the foundations of this very nation, asking us through a blend of fact and fantasy to consider the full force of its consistent and constant brutalizations and humiliations.

She accounts for what it must have meant to be a slave and a slave owner—and, more important, what it means for us to be their descendants.

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Walker grew up in Atlanta. Her father, Larry Walker, was a prolific artist in his own right, one who gained regional acclaim for his drawings and mixed-media paintings that explored sociopolitical themes in the spirit of artists like Betye Saar. His Wall Series , for example, contrasts black bodies against physical barriers in ways that attempt to call out injustices and empower the oppressed.

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For decades, Larry worked as the chair of the art history department at Georgia State.