Gifted Young Artists

How can we as adults judge the artistic ability of young people—or should we be judging it at all? Does the rendering of realistic artwork when a child is young indicate that she has an artistic bent or is she just copying what she sees in her environment? What does it mean to be a gifted artist?

Jonathan Fineberg offers some interesting insights on the misconceptions of many adults about young artists and also the development of artistic talent in kids. Among other things, he suggests that
  • The demonstration or non-demonstration of artistic ability at a young age is not necessarily a predictor of one’s abilities as an adult.
  • Those with real talent are often obsessed with drawing. It’s difficult for them to stop and do something else.
  • Art can help a child express and examine things that they can’t put into words. In a sense, it helps them to gain control over their environment.
  • Adults need to be careful not to impose their values and aspirations on a child and her artwork.
  • Some feel that by the time a child is 10 or 11, he often loses his gift for drawing imaginatively. By then, he has figured out the rules and standards of the larger world and is trying to please others.
  • Instructions should not be given a child in the realm of her fantasy.
  • Kids who are four and five often are so unrepressed. They reveal inner feelings in their art that we try to deny ourselves.
  • Adults can get very wrapped up in their own kids. Parents must be careful not to push a child into a place that the child doesn’t want to be, such as showing off or exhibiting his work or selling it. It is easy to do this because the parent has put too much of his own ambition into the child.
  • Buy lots of cheap paper so you don’t feel like your kid is wasting it.
  • If a child’s perfectionism is too great, they may be trying to please you or themselves too much. If that is the case, you need to talk with them about that.
If this subject interests you, you will want to read When We Were Young: New Perspectives on the Art of the Child. The contributors to this book address central questions of how children use art to make sense of their experience and what really constitutes visual "giftedness" in children. They also cover topics such as giftedness versus education in children's drawings.

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