Crafty Cora hasn’t shown much interest in drawing for a while. Last week she pulled out some markers for a project – I can’t remember what though it probably involved drawing on one of her toys, or the dog, to embellish a game she was playing or a story she was telling herself. While the colors were out I asked if she would draw with me. She told me to draw a cat for her and I told her I thought she could do it herself. “Just try,” I coaxed. Then I gave her some simple directions and asked a few questions to help her get going.
“First, draw a head.” She drew a circle. “Good start!” I encouraged.
“What else does it need?” I asked. She drew eyes. Detailed eyes, not just circles or dots!
“How about some ears?” The little bumps on top.
“Now a nose. And a mouth,” she told me.
“Anything else?” I asked. “How about some whiskers?”
When she was finished, big brother George asked her to draw him a lion. She started with the zigzag shape for its head. I was stunned! With no prompting, she used her mental image of a lion to guide her. This lion is furry. This lion is fierce.
There are few things I love more in this world than the authentic drawings of young children representing the things they see in this world. I first became interested in this phenomenon while I was at Pratt Institute where I was assigned Nancy Smith’s (1997) Observation Drawing with Children. This book is great for teachers and parents interested in how they can support their children’s drawing with an eye toward real world representation. Note, this is not the same as the professional genre known as Realism. This is is about looking carefully. It about making marks to represent what you see, as best as you can, not like a camera would. In such drawing we can see thinking.
I was so impressed with what Cora was able to draw in response to just a few simple prompts. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
[Companion reading recommendation: Last year I wrote about Rosa drawing big cats. The piece addressed older children and the controversial issue of copying. You can read that post here.]