Write down to write it up

Children draw, paint, assemble and build, but they also write a great deal. Primary school children are often given the opportunity to describe their drawings in writing. This can be the beginning of a long string of personal writings involving homemade comic strips, diary entries and poetry creation.

There are plenty of personal journal products on the market and it is a most significant and enduring present a young person can receive from parents. In fact, diary or personal writing is an activity proven to be beneficial for anyone. So, why not start early in life? Have a look at Dr Melissa Madeson‘s advices for Self-esteem journals, prompts, PDFs and ideas published by Positive Psychology. Her “8 Self-Love Journal Prompts” are sure to help anyone get through what feels like a bad day. If you want to dig a little deeper into the subject, see Dr. Christian Jarrett‘s well-referenced article To boost your self-esteem, write about chapters of your life, published by the British Psychological Society.

Writing about or for oneself, however, might not be everyone’s cup of tea. So be it. Writing about anything that one cares about is always a good idea. Writing it on paper rather than on screen could make it more memorable and fun to go back to in latter life. We recently discovered the fantastic Canadian Science Fair Journal. A great place for kids to realize that they too can write about their science projects and discoveries!

A rabbit dreams of an eagle, by Mathieu, c2000. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org.

Twigs with a twist

Just last month on this very blog, we paid homage to the stickman figure. Many told us it was a good move. So, for the fun of it, let’s keep it moving with renowned British artist Chris Kenny. See his dancing twigs and other uplifting works. Next time you go for a nature walk, let us see what you find. We also liked his other works, particularly where he mixes text and images.

Twelve Twigs 2019, by Chris Kenny. Collection of Kalmthout Arboretum, Belgium. Source: ChrisKenny.co.uk, 23 February 2021.

All hail the stickman figure!

Quite frankly, it deserves its own world class museum. The stick man figure has been among us for probably thousands of years. This enduring symbol of both human simplicity and our communication skills is still ubiquitous today, in signage and publicity around the world.

Lately, its name was passed onto the heroic character of a popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The book’s success propelled animated films and even a musical (Freckle Productions). The stick man figure has never been ignored, but it is about time we celebrate its rightful place in History.

Seriously, isn’t the stick man figure the living proof that regression, mindful or unconscious, is not only a great defense mechanism readily available to all, but also part of our daily cognitive hygiene? That the stick man figure is and has always been part of children as well as adults’ lives is definitely good food for thoughts.

How to draw a stick figure, screen shot. Source: Wikihow.com, 26 January 2021.

A step at a time

A full year into the pandemic. Lockdown, social distancing, work and study from home, even maybe a curfew. Our discipline and patience are definitely being tested. What to do? Let the recent record snowfall (50 cm) in Madrid inspire us to go outside and draw with our feet in the snow or in the sand, one step at a time. It is good exercise and no art supply is required (a camera to preserve and share ephemeral art is optional).

You can even follow the foot steps of famous engineer-artist Simon Beck and do mathematics at the same time. Start with a small simple geometrical form and challenge yourself to go big and find proper location for you. Reflect on how you feel about your image fading away and how long it lasts. The pandemic will not last. How we will remember it is on us.

Screen capture, Instagram. Source: Instagram.com/simonbeck_snowart 10 December 2021.

Discover the Wordbank

CDIC is better known for its interest in images from children, be it drawings, collages, paintings or mix media. Keep in mind that we also have a passion for photographs and digital expressions by children. They can be digital drawings, video and audio files. The more items we collect and preserve, the more useful our collection can be to scholars and authors who wish to access it in the future.

We recently found out about a fantastic research project on language acquisition in infants and toddlers. Initiated by cognitive scientist and developmental psychologist Michael C. Frank, the Wordbank is an impressive database of audio files from over 75 000 children and 30 languages. Frank and his research team from Stanford and Chicago universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published the latest of their findings in a book available at Random House and MIT Press: Variability and Consistancy in Early Language Acquisition, the Wordbank Projet. The Language and Cognition Lab at Standford University made the document available on GitHub. This is valuable material for all early childhood specialists interested in language acquisition.

Stanford Magazine published a nice review by Deni Ellis Béchard, in its March 2020 online edition, What Kids Are Saying These Days. It gives an account of how Michael C. Frank came to developing his research and provides highlights from the book.

Wordbank website header. Source: Wordbank: An open database of children’s vocabulary development (stanford.edu) , 22 December 2020.

All ears

Anytime is a good time to celebrate music and drawing all at once. Let’s be thankful for music. It helps us going through the global pandemic and so many other dire experiences, or beautiful ones just the same. Put on your favorite or a completely unexplored playlist and draw lightheartedly while letting yourself transported by the sound of music.

For educators and homeschoolers, here are two nicely put together activity descriptions to explore with kids. The first one, Drawing to music, is from a quite interesting project called TeachRock, by the no less fascinating Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. Make sure to go read who the founders are on their web site. Like most of us, many visual artists are inspired by music. It is quite fitting that they suggest Kandinsky’s bursting Composition VII for this activity.

The second one, Musical Art, was shared on KinderArt by Geoff Simpson, a teacher from the Greater Toronto Area, where our Collection is based. Go on and revisit Piet Mondrian and Serge Tousignant’s works, only two of the many great painters who could not do without their musical inspiration.

Composition VII, 1913, by Kandinsky. Source: TeachRock.org, 10 November 2020.

Show me the wind

Early in 2020, we were made to explain to children, why a virus that we could not see was forcing us do so many things differently. Months go by and we need to keep this conversation going. It is important to continue the discussion with children and among adults, about what we are collectively going through and how we feel about it.

They draw themselves, the family, the family pet, the nearby trees, street traffic and maybe the virus too. Did you ask your child to draw the wind yet? Please do, and take this opportunity to continue a conversation about what our eyes cannot readily see. A much useful conversation about what is invisible but real, as opposed to what is invisible and indeed does not exist. Make sure to conclude this conversation with safety measures and the cooperation needed to keep COVID-19 at bay.

See how your child can figure out how to draw the wind. After the drawing is made, watch together how others have done it. Visit the playlists we are compiling on our newly created Youtube channel. We just bookmarked this one minute video showing one way to draw the wind.

How to draw the wind, by How to for kids. Source: Youtube, 18 October 2020.

Inspiration

Occasionally, it is important that we take a moment to think about people who inspire us and those we like to inspire.

Inspiration is something at once full of mysteries and quite common. Artists are known to rely on it for their success, but at one level or the other, we all know and experience inspiration. People inspire art, art inspire people , people inspire people and art inspire art.

This minimalist short film by Pierre Oscar Levy, Enfant au toton, is the perfect two and a half minutes to meditate on inspiration. In it, find craft, design, painting, photo, fashion, music and video. Take the time to see the various talents required to making it, and how far back goes Chardin’s inspiration before reaching us.

Still image and detail, Enfant au toton (Chardin), a film by Pierre Oscar Levy, 2010. Droits photo © Petit Palais / Jean Schorman. Source: Youtube, 5 September 2020.

Toy touts

Here are some simple fun things for kids to do with their parents and or siblings. Ask a child to draw a favorite toy twice. Once by memory and then with the object in sight. Take a picture of the toy. Use the three images and the toy itself to trigger a conversation about handmade versus mechanical and industrial goods. Plan a visit to a local craft fair along with your next shopping trip.

Another activity provides a precious life experience. With the child, identify a toy that was stored away, is still in good conditions and had not been used for some time. Discuss the possibility of disposing of it and make a plan together. The first step should be to draw the toy and keep the drawing as a souvenir. List the pros and cons of two alternatives: 1) Donate the toy and learn about philanthropy and the feelings of loss and empathy; 2) Sell the toy and learn about commerce, publicity, savings and talk about values.

Celebrate the benefits toys bring to us all, by discovering artists who do that so well. Our four favorites are Derrick Hickman, Jimmy Lucero, Josh Talbott and John Padlo. Did you know that Andy Warhol made a series of toy paintings? Some are currently on display at the Gmurzinska Gallery in Zürich. Many more artists are celebrating toys. See the works by Kelley Bochman Smith, Joyce K. Jensen, Margaret Morrison and Linda Apple.

Child with a teetotum, by Jean-Siméon Chardin. Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier, M. Bard. Source: Louvre.fr, 29 August 2020.

Chalk it up

We’ve all seen chalk drawings on the sidewalk during the recent confinement. One young artist and her younger brother muse took it to an unparalleled level. What fourteen year old Macaire has achieved is just so impressive, full of magic and love. Please someone give those two an award, a scholarship, a thumbs up. As far as we are concerned, they have already made pandemic history. These ephemeral and monumental images cannot be preserved in their original state. Luckily, we have social media. Visit @macairesmuse on Instagram. Let us know what you think.

Detail of Macaire’s Muse Instagram page. Source: Instagram, 15 August 2020.