Posted on 14 Comments

Can we all be artists?

“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” –Pablo Picasso

Children love to paint

Children are hard-wired to play and be creative. They are more naturally arty than their parents appreciate as they are more involved in “process” and than the what end product looks like.  Process art is all about the experience the children have while they’re creating. How many times have you had the experience of admiring a child’s drawing or painting and then  had to ask “Now, what is it meant to be?”  In fact, being creative in this way allows children the chance to explore the world around them, ask questions, and see how things work. What the painting is meant to be is only one part of it.

So why aren’t all adults expert artists? Why do so many teenagers and adults announce “I can’t draw, well, except stick people”? Well, children develop in stages. Starting at the first stage of Self Expression (scribbling) then going through other stages to end up with the desire to see the world around them for what it is and to draw realistically.

  • The scribbling stage – 1 and 1/2 years
  • The Stage of Symbols – 3-4 years
  • Pictures that tell stories – 4-5 years
  • The Landscape –  4 or 5 years
  • The stage of complexity – 9 or 10 years
  • The stage of realism
  • The crisis period The beginning of adolescence

This produces a crisis in many older children and adolescences. They want to create a drawing that looks “real” As a result, they become increasingly conscious of details and proportion in what they are drawing. They become more conscious of the perceived shortcomings of their work. Those that cannot satisfy their need to make their work fit rules of perspective and proportion gradually stop drawing and label themselves as “not artistic”.

But that’s not the end of the story. Creativity often emerges in other areas of life – usually making things with their hands – such as gardening, hairdressing, DIY, sewing, or cooking. I don’t think online gaming counts as creativity, but I could be wrong. Academic research has shown that making things with your own hands is very useful for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression. As in childhood, it is the process that is important; creative action can function as a natural antidepressant. Five years ago, I found that painting soothed my troubled spirits during my breakdown in and in the midst of PTSD. In fact I cannot go more than a few days without painting before I get “twitchy”. I am   not alone, psychologists have noticed that creativity is often an unexpected side effect of trauma, it even has a name: “Post-traumatic Growth“. Indeed, it often a life crisis such as illness whether physical or mental, or just retirement, that will bring adults back to art.

Art is one of those things that given encouragement and instruction anyone can start. It doesn’t matter what your age is.  Just remember, creativity as all about trying things. Some of them work and some don’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s all process. The point is to try stuff and develop the stuff that you feel “works”.  The irony is that many of the artists of the 20th century stopped trying to make their work look realistic and today’s conceptual artists today almost never pick up a pencil or paint brush yet they are all artists. So, yes we all can be artists. You just have to decide what sort of artist you want to be.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Pablo Picasso

Microsoft Word - Picasso et Sima.doc
Picasso and his pet owl

Find out more about Process Art 



14 thoughts on “Can we all be artists?

  1. This is all so very true. I can relate to all you say. It is so therapeutic to be lost in the creative process.

  2. Yes, its rather depleted life that does leave room for small acts of creation. There have been many periods in my life when there was no time or energy for creation.

  3. Alle kinderen zijn kunstenaar maar in de lafere school krijgt creativiteit te weinig kansen0Veel te veel opdrachten en opmerkingen en dan slaan kinderen aan het twijfelen en zeggen dat ze het niet kunnen en daar beginnen dan de prioblemen

  4. Dat is interessant. Het is hetzelfde in het Verenigd Koninkrijk.
    That’s interesting. It is much the same in the UK!

  5. I really relate to what you are saying. As a member of a sketching group which is attracting a lot of retirees, there is a lot of comments about I can’t draw etc etc, along with a real hunger to express themselves. Many would be sketchers are completely hung up on ‘it’s no good if it’s not realistic’, meaning ‘good’ sketches look like a photograph. Oh my tongue gets bitten quite often and I am genuinely upset that so many people are caught up in years of self criticism to the point where they can barely pick a pencil up because the outcome doesn’t meet their expectations.

    1. That’s such a shame that people obsess about realism to that degree. Have you ever come across Betty Edwards’ book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” ? It’s a relevation? It won’t wave a magic wand as regards drawing but it does show how our brain “gets in the way” because of this need to evaluate what we are doing.

  6. Wonderful post… be creative in the way you were born to be. It’s necessary to find the time to give it a try at least, and find what makes you happy.

    1. Time is vital. We need to take the time to be creative. Thank you for your comment.

  7. Totally agree with everything in this post. And you know what? It is the same with writing or styling an outfit. Very often, the creativity flow comes in the process of trying different options. Nice reading you.

  8. Thank you for your comment. Now, putting together an outfit. That’s certainly an art!!

  9. When I taught writing in the schools in the US (it was occasional and very marginal work–and really only marginally teaching, but that’s another story), up until they were around 10, the kids all wanted to write and all wanted to read their work to the class. I especially loved working with the kids the upper end of that range–they had solid skills but hadn’t lost their enthusiasm. After that, though, it was like they went into hiding. I don’t know if it’s a result of bad teaching (I don’t recommend the way American schools teach writing, or lots of other things) or if it’s just some built-in glitch of our species, but it was absolutely predictable.

  10. I think its down to puberty. I don’t think we can blame the school system for knocking the creativity of them (although the examination system has a goood go at it). I have taught in secondary schools for many yaers and I have seen the difference between the boundless enthusiasm and curiosity of the delightful 11 year-olds and the sullen, stroppy 14 year-olds. Interesting, when I did a stint in a rural school (lots of well-off parents) the kids were much less self-conscious and more willing to give it ago and read out loud. They also produced excellent written work. However, the flip side to that was that they were less mature than the city kids I was used to teaching, and could be quite silly at times. I think the kids who are serious about creativity keep it going on the quiet – others have to wait for some life crisis to rekindle it (illness, prison, retirement etc).

  11. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for stopping by

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