Archive for April 23rd, 2010

One of Picasso’s pithy pronouncements is, we should all be able to draw like children. This bit of wisdom is open to interpretation.  He himself had mastered the techniques of painting and drawing by the age of sixteen: perspective, anatomy, chiaroscuro, the works.

When people look at his mature work, however,  and say  my five-year old can do that—and I’ve actually heard that said TWICE in front of a Picasso—they mean that these paintings negate all those classical rules. It’s easy to evaluate a painting when you have a checklist of techniques.  When you’ve checked off the items on your list, you’re done and you move on to the next painting in the gallery.  But the expressive quality of a work is not the result of technique, but of a certain kind of daring.  And that quality, the expressiveness, is not accessible to all viewers.  My guess is that they view children’s’ art with condescension, as they view the art of Picasso.

No condescension here. For the past seven years I have had the privilege of participating in an art event at an elementary school in Barrington.  I draw the kids.  Yesterday I did thirty mild caricature-like drawings in two hours.  You can see some of these at http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com/ What I want to show here is the art work that the children there do themselves.  I always arrive an hour early so that I can look at the art that fills the hallways.  Actually, I can’t talk about it at all.  It leaves me speechless.  I finally took some pictures.

I asked the art teacher how she prepares these nine-year-olds for a project.  Oh, she said casually, I just talk a little;  I talk a lot about artists.  That’s all I could get out of her.  But I would love to be a fly on the wall during one of her classes with third graders. I’m in awe of her teaching and doubt that I could bring out such expressiveness in these kids. 

But then, they haven’t been indoctrinated into the classical techniques yet and have nothing to UN-learn.  What to adults looks like daring is to them natural love of color and shape and the immediacy of the experience.

That is, I think, what Picasso meant.

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