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.

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.

A Lebanese nightmare

Only people who have suffered unspeakable traumas can fathom what citizens of Beyrouth are experiencing since last month’s explosion at the heart of their city. Author and mother of two, Yasmina Farah Massoud shared her thoughts about the horrendous time she, her family and her people find themselves in. See her August 11th Facebook post and her son josef’s rendering of the aftermath of the explosion (in French).

Puis il y a les enfants de Beyrouth au mois d’Août, by Yasmina Farah Massoud. Drawing by Yasmina’s son Josef. Source: Yasmina’s Facebook page, 26 September2020.

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.

Toy museums: What’s at play?

Much could be said about toy museums, as a contemporary phenomenon. Their very existence sparks reflection about nostalgia, fast changing societies and consumerism. Without dwelling on those issues, we note the diversity of toy museums and how they might evolve in the future.

We find toy museums on every continents. See a list, along with links, in this Wikipedia article. As summer holidays come to a close and lockdowns are being lifted, visiting one makes for a fun family excursion. Many of them are small and grew out of personal collections. Probably by grownups who could not bare to see these cute objects collecting dust, in the attic or at the local antique fair. See the one in Hamilton (CA), or the charming one in Helsinki (FI).

Others have impressive collections, be it by their size, historical or specialized content. The Farm Toy Museum (Dyersville, IA), the Shankar’s International Doll Museum (New Dehli, IN) and the Ore Mountain Toy Museum (Seiffen, GE) are three examples. A few have full-time curators and collect not only rare items, but tourism awards too. Interestingly, the state of Missouri has two, both founded in 1982. Spain also has more than one such museums.

We found two institutions of special interest, each for a couple of reasons. First, they do not call themselves toy museums. The Strong National Museum of Play (Buffalo, NY) is one of the largest in the world. Its pinball online collection caught our attention. The Museum of Childhood (Edindurgh, UK) is another one. Its collection includes books of children literature, published before 1850, and they are presented in the informative blog.

Parallel to toy museums, the so called children’s museums have also proliferated in recent years. They are usually more playrooms than museums, even when located in fine art or history museums. The museums in Buffalo and Edinburgh bring these two concepts together most effectively and their names appropriately reflect it. In their facilities, nostalgia and popular brands co-exist hand in hand with the ever relevant crayons, paper, glue stick, and scissors. Toys are about play, play is about learning. Toys are for kids, toys are for the family. Toy s are about experiencing childhood in play. That is what this type of museum is about. It goes far beyond the toy itself

Logos, Toy Museum of Helsinki, FI and Tartu Toy Museum, EE. Sources: lelumuseo.fi ; mm.ee, 23 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.

Parents networking

Home schooling the little ones came as a surprise and a steep learning curve for parents this last spring. The challenge has been no less demanding for parents who happen to be teachers. Home schooling must continue to be on everybody’s mind, so kids find the learning opportunities they so deserve.

Stay at home and working parents have long been engaged in online groups and sharing blogs and information. As the notion of web community is more meaningful than ever during physical distancing, we encourage parents to engage with other parents and share each others’ insights. Here is a fantastic blog we found, Parent: Smile and Grow. It has the advantage of being trilingual. On it, a great article by Clio, on children drawings. Let us hear how you like it!

Header, Parent: Smile and Grow. Source: parent-smileandgrow.com, 14 July 2020.

Everyone should draw more

It is never repeated too often. Drawing is a tool, is a learning tool and enhances life for everyone. The George Lucas Educational Foundation too says so, in one of their many interesting videos: The powerful effect of drawing on learning.

George Lucas Educational Foundation. Source: Edutopia.org, 17 May 2020.

Surveyors among us

We are lucky that imagination and playfulness cannot be confined, at least not for long. A short springtime walk in the neighborhood, and young surveyors are at work, measuring and marking the times. Future graffiti artists? No, just fooling around with hope. Stay safe everyone.

Sidewalk chalk drawings, photo with permission. Source: CDIC-CIDE, April 2020.

Room with a view

As we get ready for a new decade, publications present their highlights of the 2010s. We look back at a most revealing and touching artistic perspective on the lives of children around the world. James Mollison‘s images from his book Where they sleep, remind us that there is still much to uncover and discuss about children’s place in our world. Do all children draw? Some authors seem to think so, but probably not all of them do. Do all children play? One can only hope so, but maybe not all of them do. One thing is sure, all children dream. Let’s hope we all do.

Where they sleep. By James Mollison, Source: jamesmollison.com , 15 December 2019.