The Innate Quest for Order and Design by Marvin Bartel

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.

Four Sources of Inspiration for Creating Art
  1. Ordinary Experience
    Most of children's spontaneous drawing fall in this category, often including some aspects of #3 below.

  2. Natural and Constructed Environment
    Observational work fall's in this category

  3. Inner Feelings and Imagination

    Expressive and imaginative work is in this category

  4. Quest for Order

  5. Careful and deliberate designs, patterns, and so on fit this category.
    Order is generally found in all art work, whether it is figurative, narrative, or totally abstract in nature. Even chaos when it has been produced intentionally, might be interpreted as a form of order.

    • Knowing these lists helps us keep children on task and involved in meaningful learning activity. Our motivational questions may help inspire fresh ideas.

    • Knowing these lists allows us to give variety and balance to our planned art activities for children. We can help inspire children to follow their natural inclinations.

Three Sources of
Subject Matter
for Art are:
  • Observation
  • Memory
  • Imagination

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    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?