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Natural Resources: A look at artistic development in children.

By: Cherie Smith

Prepared for: Dr. Elizabeth Delacruz

ARE6933 Artistic Development

I have always looked at the stages of development as step by step process that all artists work through in more or less the same manner. Through the present study of artistic development several authors have presented the idea that the stages of development are highly individualized (Cole, 1995) (Hamblen, 1985). While students may go through a process of development, they enter, learn and leave it at their own pace. Artistic development is not something that follows a particular line. Instead it develops in a way that follows the student’s natural learning curve. The child solves an inner problem by means of exterior objects. This could be considered a peculiarity of cultural behavior. Since cultural development starts as an external process, I tried looking at the different ways that children develop and attach significance to earth’s natural resources. In particular the way they assign importance to the water around them. Water plays a large part in our existence on this planet. It is not a cultural phenomenon and it crosses the boundaries of countries and continents. I attempted to develop a theory of how far students had internalized the artistic process through the visual clues of their artwork. The biggest obstacle I ran into was the lack of information on many of the child artists. I believe if I was to turn this into a real study I would use subjects that were known so it was possible to examine their internal processes versus the external evidence.


The artistic process is influenced by external stimuli, such as an art teacher or cultural experience, as the student internalizes the problem to better understand it they become active learners. Artistic expression is a series of choices that make sense within a given context; not a movement towards an already specified outcome (Hamblen, 2006). The student work I gathered was of personal environments that they encountered on a daily basis. The way students chose to portray water seemed to depend on the significance of the water to their life or lively hood. Students from countries such as the United States portrayed the water as a detail of their picture or in relationship to fun recreational activities. Children in other areas of the world portrayed water with more significance, especially children from areas that relied on rivers or lakes to travel or gather food. In those students art water was a large part of the picture and included multiple colors and details. Several of the artworks I selected looked as though the artist had experience with fishing in a village or gathering fish to eat rather than as a leisure activity. During the brief amount of time I was able to examine the student’s work I noticed that universally water is depicted as blue. While some cultures add other colors to the water in cultures that spend more time in and around it, all the children had at least a small amount of blue in their water. Other colors that were used to represent water were green, brown and white. Only the youngest students presented the water with only one color. It seemed that anyone over the age of 8 had multiple details in the water adding additional colors, fish, wildlife or friends. Also the oldest students (11 and older) most of the time had friends rather than family included in their artwork. It was interesting when that was not the case as the picture looked lonely and solitary perhaps giving a brief glimpse of that child’s state of mind during its creation.


The diversity surrounding the significance water plays in the life of children artists lead me to the conclusion, if culture and our surroundings have this kind of influence on each of us how can there possibly be only one form of artistic development? This study was an extremely brief look at one resource and how students from many cultures approach the main resource of life from very different perspectives. More in-depth studies could be done on the visual impact of perspective (Silverman, 1997). Educators need to address multiple types of culture and learning in their classrooms. Education must engage students and build upon their experiences. They need to be encouraged to explore ideas and become active learners at their own pace. There should be a changing perception of children’s art in art education today. Although it has only gained attention and study over the last one hundred years, the antique perception that children’s art-making ability does not merit consideration no longer holds true among most educators and all art educators (Leeds, 1993). The ability of a child to connect their art-making to reflect their perception of the world is important to the development of their identity as a person. I see this in the collection of artwork based on water as a natural resource.

It seems that perception of art as a visual thinking process helps me form a better understanding of the development of creativity in students. Visual thinking is outlined as the process by which student’s move from the idea of “school art” into the process of art-making (Winner, 1993). I chose in my collection to focus on the theme of water and natural resources in my study rather than working with one type of artwork or medium. The emphasis placed on exploration and problem solving I feel is more relevant to the question of how students develop their artistic response to the environment then the medium they use to express themselves. Both are integral to developing a student’s creative process but for such a brief study I felt it was more important to look at theme and how students develop that theme.


References: Arike, A. (2001). What are humans for? Art in the age of post human development. Leonardo , 447-451. Cole, D. H. (1995). Between discourse and schema: Reformulating a cultural historical approach to culture and mind. Anthropology and Education Quarterly , 475-489. Feldman, D. H. (1985). The concept of non-universal development domains: Implications for artistic development. Visual Arts Research , 82-89. Hamblen, K. A. (1985). Artistic development as universal relative selection possibilites. Visual Arts Research , 69-83. Leeds, J. (1989). The history of attitudes toward children's art. Studies in art education , 93-103. Silverman, L. (1997). The construct of asynchronous development. Peabody Journal of Education , 36-58. Weitz, M. (1956). The role of theory in aesthetics. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism , 27-35. Winner, E. (1993). Exceptional artistic development. Journal of Aesthetic Education , 31-44.

Profile for Cherie Smith

Natural Resources  

Many young artists today gather inspiration from the world around them. The readings during this and previous lessons have led to the unders...

Natural Resources  

Many young artists today gather inspiration from the world around them. The readings during this and previous lessons have led to the unders...

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