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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

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