Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Every child is an artist...?

Every child is an artist. 
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. 
Pablo Picasso
I have just come back from the dress rehearsal of "Häst Häst Häst" (Horse Horse Horse) - a play, or rather an experience directed by Suzanne Osten and about an artist called Leonora Carrington (for information about her click here).
The whole performance is aimed at teenagers (15-18) primarily with the aim to get them thinking - and the character Leonora is played by 3 women at the same time - showing the complexity of every person and the different elements we need to manage different parts of our life, to experience them, to deal with them and to see them with different perspectives - and also shows how one and the same person is never just ONE person - as we are constantly changing and evolving to meet the needs of our surroundings and situation...
Very much in tune with what one child asked me a few weeks ago - "Did you exist when you were little?" - and when I was asked this again later in the day, by an adult, it made me think deeper (it's why it's so important to ask the same question many times) - that yes I existed when I was little - it was me, but NOT the me that I am now. Once we move out of fairies and flight this is a question we want to pose to the children... to ask them what they think  their parents were like as children - and what they think THEY will be like when they are adults...

But I am going off in another direction ... so I will pull myself back to Picasso (who Leonora had a connection with - she seemed to have met many powerful and influential people in her time)...

the art work produced during and at the end of the play/experience

After the play/experience there was time for everyone to meet the actors, add to the big painting and talk with the director... I went to huddle with a few to listen to Suzanne Osten talk about WHY she had chosen to direct this experience and her connection with Leonora Carrington...

and during this talk I got mentioned - that when she and the actors came to observe us at Filosofiska  and watch us get creative (Morocco inspired painting) that her talk with me afterwards had helped her solve a question/thought she had been pondering for quite some time - that children are artists...
She recalled how I explained the process behind our Australian Dot painting (you can check out that activity here) - that the children had been unable to create dot paintings because the process of experiencing the paint was too important - and that the first attempt with fingers together did not create dots (for long) using ear-buds in a small area did not produce dots (as the children painted with them like a brush) and that eventually bubble-wrap was used to meet the needs of the children's sensory exploration of the paint and the aim to create an Australian Aboriginal inspired dot painting.
Children cannot be expected to produce things without first being given the chance to explore and experiment with their tools AND to gain the motor skills to manipulate them exactly they way THEY want to...

Suzanne Osten then went on to say that we are probably wrong to say that children are ARTISTS - but that instead we should see children as CREATING - and that being in artist is more of a conscious awareness.
 Maybe, then, what Picasso actually means is that the artist within us can only bloom if our "creating" nature is allowed to continue without restrictions of getting it wrong - that we dare to express ourselves and possibly challenge what is expected - and that we are given the time and knowledge to master the tools. And once we have mastered them we can play with them. For instance once you have learned to ride a bike - which takes practice and practice we are then free to play with the bike - some will go on to use their bike to cycle up mountains, others will use their bike just to get from A to B, others will race and yet others will start doing tricks - a kind of art if  you might with a bike... The learning gives us the freedom to play and choose. Just as our supporting children to master artistic tools and materials will give them the freedom to play with them and be the artist. It also means we need to give these tools and materials value. It also means that we need to give it time. Because if there is neither time nor value then how and why would EVERY child want to be an artist?

When you read about Leonora you can read that she became an artist against her parents wishes... it feels like something you hear a lot with many of the arts - that there is so little value given to them that children are not encouraged to pursue them and are directed down other avenues... this is why it is hard to be an artist when you grown up, because you have not been given the time or the encouragement to explore and learn, you have not been given the time and skills, you have not been given the time and value that art needs to thrive and grow for every child to become an artist.

As a child I drew and painted and created a LOT. It took time. I was given the encouragement by my parents and I was given the tools to explore - but there was NO-ONE to give me the skills - those I have had to piece together myself - and I am still putting it all together and I am learning all the times. BUT you have to have a passion - like Leonora - I spend a lot of time collecting ideas and ideas and ideas and process and skills - and then mixing and playing and trying and experimenting - if you don't have a passion how would you manage to do all of this?
I have a passion for early childhood education - and I do the same there - collecting ideas and ideas and mixing and matching and playing with possibilities and learning from experiences - my own and others...
My art these days is not my own - my art is through others. I express myself through giving children opportunities to experience art - and my challenge is, I feel, to help children become familiar with new tools, materials and techniques - and for this experimenting and playing with tools, materials and techniques will result insomething meaningful for the children.

My aim is not for them to be an artist now - but to expose them to everything they need to create the foundations of being an artist - and that means not just time in the atelier - but also time learning to observe, to listen, to question and to think, time to strengthen muscles so that their motor skills become better at controlling the tools so that they are able to produce what THEY want and not just what they are capable of (I remember my own childhood and the frustrations of not having the skills to get my images in my head down on paper - these days I seems to have less images in my head and more processes - but I think my photography is becoming my art, - in a way).

OK I knew this might be one of those post that would ramble a bit... so i am going to leave it here... I have too many thoughts bubbling and trying to reach the surface - and I thought that this would help them simmer down so I could sleep but instead its waking up more bubbles...

PLEASE PLEASE give feedback...

If you wish to see images of Leonora's artwork check here on Unga Klaras pinterest board
one of the paintings created by Leonora Carrington to be found on Unga Klaras Pinterest Board


  1. Many good points here. I think maybe Picasso meant the children are artists in the sense that they are willing to explore and try new things and take creative risks. Many adults out-grow that but children seem to be more open to it.

    1. absolutely - I also think this too - that it is not so much the title "artist" as the process that is important - and I think as adults and our path to becoming adults we are given less time and room to be creative and to take riska as there is too much focus on being right in a specific way/in a school way.