When children show their first inclinations toward artistic talent, parents can sometimes go overboard — the refrigerator engulfed in drawings of rainbow scribbles and happy sunshines, framed doodles of stick figures hanging over the fireplace. You’d be hard pressed to find a person around these parts who wouldn’t encourage the budding artistic talent of a child, yet you’ll find thousands of opinions on the best methods for honing young creativity.
Jean Van’t Hul, a mother of two young daughters and creator of The Artful Parent, recently wrote an interesting post about her child’s newfound love of drawing. Ever since her daughter, Maia, learned how to draw a bird at school, she’s been drawing the creature the same way, line by line. Hul felt torn: should she give her daughter what she knew would be a well-received how-to drawing book, or should she seek out more natural methods? After opening her blog post up to comments, Hul found varied answers. Some parents felt step-by-step instruction gives confidence to a young artist, while others feel it’s inhibiting and too formulaic.
Though she made a decision, Hul still remains ambivalent, as documented in her follow-up blog post. Perhaps it’s not wholly possible to gauge the effects such drawing tools have on us, but they certainly play a huge part in our upbringing. As a child, I was obsessed with Ed Emberley’s step-by-step drawing books, which are ingrained in my memory. He taught me how to draw witches, cats, trucks and snakes. Yet for all the hours I pored over his books and practiced each step, my drawing style today has no trace of Emberly’s influence. Still, the question is a powerful one: should children be guided, step-by-step through their early artistic development, or should they be given free range to create without instruction?