I read an article a while back about a test conducted between the work of kids’ abstract art and the abstract paintings of modern artists. The test was to see if the statement “a child could paint that” is actually true.
They chose a group of art and psychology students to decide which works they prefer; the work of famous modern artists or the works of toddlers and animals. Around 60% chose the work of the modern artists. So it turns out a child can actually not “paint that”.
But this got me thinking; what about kids vs non established modern artists? How about kids vs adults? By adults I mean the average Joe wanting to blow off some steam through being creative.
Why kids make better abstract art than adults
I work as an art facilitator at a community art space, where the public is invited to paint in the studio. Here I encounter people from all kinds of backgrounds and of all ages. I’m talking age 3 to 50 and older.
Very often I meet adults wanting to start an abstract painting, only to stare at the canvas while exclaiming; “I don’t know where to start”! Then I look over at the kiddies with their tiny aprons just going at it without a care in the world.
While there is way more to abstract art than just a scribbling mess, we cannot expect all adults who don’t have an artistic background to know the creative process behind abstract art.
This is why there are people such as myself working there to guide them in their process. I usually tell them that there should be a feeling or some sort of concept behind abstract art.
After all, Mark Rothko said that a painting of nothing will never be good.
But even though they eventually do have something they want to convey, they still have that fear of the blank canvas.
Kids on the other hand also don’t have any education in the creative process in abstract painting. But have you ever watched kids paint? They’ll point out that this blue shape is their house, the yellow smudge is their dog, etc. They put thought and effort into their work. So essentially, they naturally start off with a concept.
They’re just not as scared at making a mistake as adults are. Of course they don’t aim to make something abstract, but it turns out that way because it turns into something that is non representational.
I have come to realise that as we hit around 12 years of age, our insecurities and fears start to grow. And if we’re not careful, this continues all the way into adulthood. And this majorly affects our playfulness, decision making and willingness to experiment on canvas.
Most of my favourite abstract paintings are from what the kids do in the studio. From their use of colour, to their brush strokes. You can feel the sense of freedom in their work, were as most of the adults’ abstract paintings you can sense the constricted fear and hesitation, because we think too much about it.
I’m not writing this to critique anyone’s work. I just want to bring home the fact that we were all once fearless and totally sure of ourselves. I want to encourage you, and by extent myself as well, to find and embrace that fearless and playful child in each and everyone of us.
Maybe we should go back to enjoying the process instead of looking for an outcome. I dare you to live life fearlessly and watch how your paintings transform!
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