Thinking Drawings

My niece and nephew were here last month and their representational drawing skills blew my mind. I have always been a sucker for the observational drawings of children. These are serious works of art, and thinking. Citing Rudolph Arnheim, Winner (1993) noted that children’s drawings “are not just clumsy attempts to draw what they see, but are rather attempts to show the relevant structural features of what they are trying to draw” (p. 32).

This was clearly evident to me in Sebastian and Samantha’s drawings.

Seb_airplane copy

Sebastian (5 1/2 years old): After the flight to my house during which he got to go into the cockpit of the plane. I love the x-ray view and jet engine attached to the lower wing.

sam_backyard copySamantha(7 years old) made this drawing after playing in the backyard with the dog and chickens. My favorite parts are the pulley she included on the left side of the playset and the two-person swing which she drew from a birdseye view, inserted into a human perspective drawing. She was thinking through the structure of the swing – the opposing sets of handlebars with a seat in between – and found a way to document it.

Sebastian made a number of drawings like this over the course of thsi visit. He has been increasing his interest in drawing over the past year. His ability to represent what he sees on paper has advanced at a rapid speed that has been interesting and amazing for me to watch, as his doting aunt and as an art educator.

It’s also been hard at times. For, as I’ve written before, Cora (age 5) has not displayed consistent interest in drawing. Coloring yes. Drawing not as much, though she has been gaining momentum lately. (See “First I Yelled, Then I Kvelled.”)

She made these drawings this week. I guess there was some hand-turkey and stuff happening in her classroom and she took the idea and rolled with it to make a book full of portraits of our chickens. She started with the traditional outline of her hand* but worked carefully to depict Runt’s black and white striping, red comb and waddle and R2D2’s scalloped feathers. I was impressed with how she appropriated the hand-bird format to suit her own needs for representation.

I’m looking forward to continuing to observe and document all the kids’ drawing development. We’ve started a family picture pen pal club – sending drawings back and forth. Will let you know how it goes.

Are your kids making “thinking drawings?” Of what? I’d love to see them!

* I wrote about Cora’s first hand-turkey three years ago. Check out: “When It’s Your Kid’s Hand Turkey, Things Get Complicated.”

Winner, E. (1993). “Exceptional Artistic Development: The Role of Visual Thinking.” The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 27(4), p. 31-44.



3 thoughts on “Thinking Drawings

  1. Dear Jodi:
    So interesting how we continue to be in sync with each other. Years ago, a friend and I curated an exhibit of artists’ drawings called, “Preparatory Notes, Thinking Drawings.”

  2. I love those hand-chickens, Jodi. I am always fascinated by the ways children repurpose techniques and media. Some of my favorite artworks made by children during the time I worked in an art museum were the ones that reflected adaptations to the carefully designed, exhibition related activities we developed for family events. Some museum educators might see these kinds of adaptations as disruptions to the intended flow of educational experiences from the gallery to the studio, but I always saw them as indications that children were sufficiently inspired by the gallery to create independently – in other words, thinking artworks.

  3. Pingback: RE:Thinking Drawings | Art Education Outside The lines

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