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.

Our website in 2020

Our website hit the 100K hits just in time for the new year. With close to 14 000 visits by people from every continents, we have much gratitude for our social media volunteers. They helped us getting the word out and fed discussions about the importance of our collection.

We would like to hear from you about topics that would interest you in the coming year. If you have an article or a blog post that you would like us to publish, by all means share.

CDIC-CIDE website in 2020. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org

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.

Join our board of directors

Children’s Design International Collection (CDIC) is currently seeking candidates to fill a position on its board of directors. Individual with strategic planning, decision making, financial, communication or language skills are all encourage to reach out to us. The position is for a two year mandate.

It is a key responsibility for our organization, however the level of time commitment is not high, we plan to hold three to five meetings per year, all online. Distance should not refrain you from applying or recommending someone. The position is volunteer, the board is small and so is our program volunteer team at this point. We are a young organization, come grow with us. See this call for nominations and simply email us for details at info@cdic-cide.org.

Peace on Earth, by Yvon, c1966. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org

Chill out, a doodle at a time

Numerous articles have been written about the benefits of the arts, be it visual or musical, for mental fitness and good learning dispositions. We came across a surprising article in which researchers ask (and answer) a question that goes a little deeper: Which of coloring, doodling or free drawing is more rewarding? Don’t we all want to know which one, if any, brings more satisfaction?

The research team is extensive: Girija Kaimal, Hasan Ayaz, Joanna Herres, Rebekka Dietrich-Harwell, Bindal Makwana, Donna H. Kaiser and Jennifer A. Naaser. They seriously and carefully looked at this issue and presented their results in an article with the funkiest title: Functional near-infrared spectroscopy assessment of reward perception based on visual self-expression: Coloring, doodling, and free drawing. A non-initiated could not come up with this.

The article was published by Elsevier in 2017 in The Art and Psychotherapy (Vol. 55), and can be accessed online on Science Direct. An interesting read for anyone, and a must for art-therapists looking for new insights. To paraphrase author Diane Alber, I’m not just a… doodle, and we add to her voice that “doodles are here to stay”. Have some fun, draw a neuron of your liking, doodle around it and color it beautifully. Feel free to share it with us.

Neuron – annotated. Source: Commons.wikimedia.org, 1 December 2020.

Let’s make History

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, if we keep repeating the same mistake, but expect different results, we are insane. Up until recently, too little was done to preserve the expression of children. The result is that the contribution by children to the societal narrative has been erased and historians do not have access to enough if it to draw significant interpretations from it. This situation is particularly unfortunate for the past 150 years, since the emergence of public elementary education in western cultures.

Fortunately, change seems underway in the 21st century and a few historians demonstrate a growing interest in what kids have to say or show. It is about time because whatever was left on paper by children during the second half of the last century is about to vanish. We created our Collection largely to remedy the situation and to leave mistakes of the past behind, when it comes to preserving children’s drawings.

A superb article by Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler (Amherst College), published by The Conversation, is an encouraging sign that children’s drawings may find their rightful place in history and help history reveal itself to future generations: How studying the old drawings and writings of kids can change our view of history.

We also take notice of the recent mostly European initiative by the International Research and Archives Network (IRAND) and their Historical Children’s Drawings display. This initiative is a contribution to the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. Read the beautifully illustrated article by Dr Jutta Ströter-Bender, co-founder of IRAND, published on Research Outreach.

The Nelson Brothers’ Encyclopedia of Their Fictional World, 1890s. Amherst College. Source: TheConversation.com, 23 November 2020.

Make a donation, take action

By November 20th, make a donation, make a pledge and take action. For the second year, we began our fundraising campaign in June on the International Archives Day. Our campaign closes on World Children’s Day. Celebrate with us this important date in the United Nation‘s and our calendars.

Your generous donation will help us make postage paid envelops available to families and make it easier for them to send us their contributions to the Collection. Our plan is to make envelops available in schools, libraries and community events, where our volunteers can meet the community and new contributors. Added to our existing bookmarks and flyers, this will complete our contributor’s kit. Make your donation online and make more mail contributions possible.

Crazy Hair Day, by Sahana, 2020. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

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.

Pumkin, I “live” you

Among our recent entries from a young mom and her children, were a few Halloween related images. They just arrived and we did not have time to process them all yet. Admittedly, the pandemic is also slowing us down a bit these days and months.

It is however impossible not to share right away, this one by Sahana, with an irresistibly poetic title. Just in time for the big scare, with resilience.

Pumkin I live you, by Sahana, 2020. Source: CDIC-CIDE.