The Innate Quest
by Marvin Bartel
How does this compare to the
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What does it mean?
The above painting by a three-year-old boy is an example of how the innately felt quest for order expresses itself in a spontaneous painting done in a very deliberate style. Children often refer to these compositions as "designs". These paintings are not intended to be narrative, as most children's art is.
This boy spent about 45 minutes of concentrated effort producing this orderly composition. What does this say about the habits of concentration and focus that can be developed at a young age when children are provided a calm environment, support, and materials with which to work?
Laura Chapman* lists several approaches to creating art under which she lists several sources of inspiration for artwork. In addition to expressing Ordinary Experience, observing the Natural and Constructed Environment, and expressing Inner Feelings and Imagination: Chapman lists the Quest for Order as one of major sources of artistic inspiration.
To help children to naturally develop their ability to focus on a task over an extended period of time, we need to provide a calm and secure environment together with materials and places so that gratifying self-fulfilling productive experiences can occur. Some of these experiences can be under the complete control and ownership of the child (with appropriate adult supervision and supportive comments). Painting, modeling clay, and drawing are excellent ways to provide this. How better to foster intellectual and creative problem solving, self-motivation, experimentation skills, attention span, discovery learning and other important brain synapses during the formative years?
This is a picture postcard made by the four-year-old daughter of the person who
made the painting above. It is a felt-tip marker
Most of this child's work is narrative, often
herself in the picture story. But at times, as this work shows, young
express their need for control and order.
This "design" illustrates the qualities of
variation on a theme
. Subtle color changes
fin the reds and blues add variety and interest to the composition
maintaining order and structure. It is strongly
of different parts. The viewer's eye is led through the design by
in color in each row. The dominate structural line points back
forth creating vectors leading the eye right, then left, then right.
the upper left corner with its pre-literal graphic elements insist on
seen because they juxtapose a contrasting style.
The child sent this postcard to her grandparents. It has a note on the other side (dictated to her mother who wrote it for her, and may have prompted her a bit). It reads, "I hope you're doing well. I would like to go to your house some week. Thank you for the Barbie and clothes." The artwork gives the child a means to express her feelings and give emphasis to her wishes. She is learning the values of her family and her culture. Furthermore, the child is learning the importance of her own status and how she has some control over her own life.
It can be very rewarding and motivating for toddlers to work with art materials. It provides the young brain many appropriate and engaging challenges dealing with more abstract mathematical and verbal constructs. It is extremely helpful for the child to get positive reinforcement for self initiated learning activities. Self-designed art projects provide positive self-image and the chance for affirmative feedback that results in continued self-challenging problem-making and problem solving. Parents who express an interest by asking children to tell them about their artwork are helping their children learn to think, to imagine, and to make their own discoveries. On the other hand, parents and teachers who prescribe too much , give too many directions, show children how to do too many things may find that the child becomes too dependent on others and is less self-sufficient.
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also see: Essay on Art Classroom Rituals by Marvin Bartel* Laura Chapman. Approaches to Art in Education, 1978. © Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, NY. pp 46-52.
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