Pablo Picasso Says We Are All Artistic... And I Agree

            Everyone has heard the quote “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up” by Pablo Picasso, but how many of us have ever really thought about it?  As an art major, I have heard people say time after time “I’m not artistic at all… I can’t even draw a stick figure.”  I personally believe that every individual is artistic in their own way.  We all grew up drawing stick figures, playing with Play-Doh or even building with Legos, so what happened to those artistic children we all once were?  The answer is not clear-cut; however, I think there are many things that contribute to the older versions of ourselves believing that we are not artistic.

            Last Christmas, I made my 4-year-old cousin a simple painting for a gift and she adored it.  Upon opening it, she began drawing small little pictures for everyone in the family and passing them out.  She was very proud of her creations, but she never once compared her work to my work.  It never crossed her mind that her drawings weren’t as good as mine.  All she knew was that she worked hard on her drawings and she thought they were good.    

            So, what happens to us once we grow older that makes us believe we aren’t artistic?  Obviously, we don’t just lose artistic ability.  One possible answer is that our abilities are not fostered at a young age.  We all have that one friend that tells you to read the book instead of watching the movie.  Most of us probably choose to watch the movie because it is faster, but maybe your friend wasn’t actually wrong after all.  By reading books we are forced to make mental pictures about what we are reading.  These mental pictures are a form of creativity, because in reality, we aren’t actually seeing what we are reading.  So, in young children when they are watching TV shows and movies instead of adults reading to them, they are losing creative capacity by not being forced to create these imaginative pictures on their own.    

           Another contributor is that at a certain age, we are taught to compare ourselves to others.  Think back to when you were 4- or 5-years old drawing stick figures.  Like my little cousin, you probably didn’t look around the room and think to yourself that your drawing wasn’t as good as everyone else’s.  Once children reach the stage in their development where they become aware of other’s criticism, they begin to compare their own work with the work of other’s. During this stage is when they begin to say they are not good at art because there is inevitably at least one child whose artistic development is ahead of their own.

            Like Pablo Picasso, I have always believed that creativity and artistic ability are innate, and everyone has both creative and artistic abilities to different degrees and those abilities develop at different times.  When we are younger we all have different environments that either enhance or discourage these innate abilities and can affect how they appear in later adolescence or adulthood.  If you are brought up in a competitive household, you may be more likely to compare your artwork to other children, siblings or other peers and eventually you will believe that you aren’t a talented artist.  Children in cases like that will be less confident in their works as compared to children who were brought up in an environment where they had less comparison and competition.  So, when we are younger, if we are taught to be competitive in our artistic abilities with other children who are developing at different rates, then that is one sole factor that deters us from believing we are good artists.

            It seems like in so many classes, especially math and sciences, students are forced to only think about things in the same terms that the teacher taught it.  For math problems, there is sometimes more than one way to solve the problem, but students are often discouraged to solve them any other way than what they are taught.  Beginning at a young age we begin to develop cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to think about things in more than one way, but if we are not allowed to practice that it can be lost.  I believe that the loss of cognitive flexibility can dampen the creative and artistic abilities of children as well. 

            Obviously, comparison and competition cannot be taken out of the lives of children, but as adults we can try to strengthen the artistic and creative qualities in children beginning at a young age.  We can encourage children to be more confident in their works by lessening the competition in art education.  Instead of showing a movie to children, read a book to them and have them create pictures, paintings or 3 dimensional constructions of what they pictured happening.  Also, foster the cognitive flexibility in children by allowing them to explain problems out loud.  Encourage them to express more than one way to problem solve instead of telling them there is only one correct way.  In the end, we will live in a much more creative and artistic world if we continue to allow our children to be creative and encourage the arts among the younger generations!       

 

 

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