Aurelie Collings' (aka A. K. Collings) recent post on Neurodevelopment of Drawing Ability in Children poses some interesting ideas about using children's' drawings as measure of frontal lobe development. I thought I'd post her examples and comments along with some images and thoughts of my own. Her images are courtesy of the Canadian Society for Education through Art. My images have been pulled from the Getty's website along with some other images from the Canadian web site.
Similarly, images by adult artists of the Romanesque and Gothic periods (and Egyptian art, for that matter) show a similar schematic arrangement of figures. Patterning in fabric often parallels the picture plane, rather than following the contours of the folds of the cloth. Similar to the Christmas lights, the angels are stacked around the central figure, with no relation to the ground beneath them. Also, the proportions between the two types of figures is similar to the tree and presents.Gentile da Fabriano 's Coronation of the Virgin, 1420
My thought is that schematic representations make sense because (unlike the eye of the camera) the human eye is constantly shifting in relation to the objects it observes. Creating an image from memory or ideas will emphasize important elements, like the dangers of electrical outlets or the representation of divinity through a halo.
Ken Kranrod, age 8, 1977, Alberta (pencil)Ken's drawing is very accomplished. The detail is fantastic, and each element in his drawing is a little masterpiece. However, he is not fully out of the schematic stage. While the detail is rich and far more developed than that of the 6 year old above, Ken has not quite crossed the threshold of drawing what he sees: rather, he is representing what he knows and what is important to him when he thinks about a circus. (I love the swishy action-marks he's put in to give a sense of motion to the bear's dumbells!) Perspective, size of the elements, depth of field: none of this is developed in the overall composition. In fact, the elephant appears to be standing on the bear's head. The elephant and the hippo are also drawn in a very different, cartoon-like style, and demonstrate foreshortening in a manner that is not evident elsewhere. I wonder if these were copied from one of those "how to draw animals" books that are so beloved by children at this age, as their desire to produce representational and realistic drawings for a time trumps their joy in unfettered self-expression. By way of anecdotal finding, most kids seem to go through such a stage, although I am not aware of research specific to this observation.
The Getty's blurb:Giovanni di Ser Giovanni Guidi's Battle Scene, 1450 - 1475
These fighting knights carry the banners of ancient feuding empires--SPQR, the banner of ancient Rome, at the left and the dragon, that ofThe idea of amalgamation--showing the banners of ancient Rome with the Florentine garb--probably came to Ken as well when he illustrated the lion and then covered with in bars. Though there are no great examples in the Getty collection, the art of the late Gothic and early Renaissance can be identified by the slightly cumbersome way they arrange their figures so all the faces show ( , at the right--yet they wear contemporary gold and silver Florentine armor and joust like Florentine knights of the 1400s. The brilliant colors and simplified geometric shapes make the armored steeds look much like rocking-horses, creating a resplendent yet artificial, fairy-tale battle scene. Despite the flatness of the sumptuous painted fabrics and the mere outlines of the horses' bodies--aside from the elegantly white horse at the right--their hooves appear to exist in three-dimensional space. Duccio, Cimabue, Giotto) or the even spacing of intricate detail over the surface of the picture plane (Botticelli, Bruegel, Bosch). I would also posit that Ken's drawing doesn't show perspective because it hasn't been taught to him yet.
I can remember a fingerpainting "assignment" in second grade where I was the only one in the class to make an abstract image. It was all one color, and my fingers swirled around the paper in a Jackson Pollock sort of way. Looking back, this could probably be attributed to my sister attending art school, and learning about abstract art, rather than any creative breakthrough on my part. We paint what we want until we paint what we learn.
Rather than continue with this back and forth, I thought I'd point out that the last two images at Neurartic were copied from some other source; the picture above was labeled "Trident Advertisement" at the web site. Like the image below (and most others between the 16th and the early part of the 19th century) show that artists were aware of or using optical devices to create their images. This helped with problems around foreshortening (like trying to represent an arm when it's pointing at the viewer). Copying provides several useful learning experiences. It obviates the need to resolve issues around representing in two dimensions a three-dimensional world. It improves hand-eye coordination, small motor development, facility with a particular medium, and passes along ideas around composition, color, and design as resolved by the original image maker.A. Wallace, age 12, (Year?) New Brunswick ("paint")
Looking at other images at the Canadian website, it's obvious that the students were getting lessons in 2-d design. Because the Western eye is so saturated with optical images--photographs, movies, video--it becomes believable that the representation of someone's hands could be bigger than their head. Through years of exposure and learning, optical representations have become infused in our visual language, just as much as our fluency in Swahili or English is a product of our particular environment.Joseph Ducreux's Self-Portrait, Yawning, 1783
Finally, I leave you with the example below, which I believe is a much better representation of how the brain integrates auditory learning, a culture of visual depictions, motor skills, and the development of a skill set that translates our natural environment into representations that can be understood by others. These depictions are not only a representation of what we see, but also evidence of the visual tropes of our time and place.Sheilah Herron, age 18, Line Analysis
Vicki Hoffort's still life 1950