To Draw Like a Child

Children, when given a blank piece of paper, an array of colorful pencils, and are told to draw something, anything, usually start with scribbling in a yellow sun on one of the top corners of their little canvas. Then they will draw a thin strip of blue as the top border and a green strip as the bottom border and maybe a few odd strands of grass poking out of it. What goes in the gaping blank hole in the center? I remember one day walking to school in the spring and seeing little purple flowers growing everywhere. Since I was a young child, these flowers amazed and intrigued me so much so that I decided to draw them in art class that day. The final result, multicolored petals with intricate patterns surrounding a kaleidoscopic, sunflower-esque center looked nothing like the flowers I had seen that morning. Instead, it clearly showed the wonder that I had embraced from this exciting encounter.  

What do children think about when they draw? How do they do it anyway? Pablo Picasso had said: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” He had also said that “every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once they grow up.” But what makes children such good artists? I think that it is because they are not yet too accustomed and acquainted with the reality in which they find themselves, so they don’t feel the need to emulate it in their art. Why only use purple to draw a flower when I can use all the colors? The flowers were very beautiful, after all. Why draw a dog with four legs when it can have eight? Just look at how fast it runs, surely it should have more. Why not give my friend red spiky hair? She’s cool enough to pull it off, anyway. With no actual knowledge of or ability to create what we as a society define as art, children instead translate their reactions to objects because that is the thing that feels the most real and genuine to them. Also it’s much easier to draw what you want then painstakingly trace out the exact shape of the petals on the flower, and by drawing from their heart, they are creating something truly unique and special; something metaphysical: a direct representation of the thoughts that had gone through the child’s head as he or she created that piece of art.

What even is reality but the certain meaning and emphasis we place on the world around us. As we grow older, our brain adapts to our usual rhythm, soothes out the wrinkles of our regular human experience, and glides us gently and smoothly through life. These actions become so ingrained that they move from the conscious to the subconscious parts of the brain. While children have more neurons in their brain to work through the still surprising and exciting aspects of their lives, those neurons die as we age, meaning that certain aspects of our existence become automatic and therefore unnoticed. Children, then, must notice and react to what we would now call trivial. Those flowers that we’ve seen emerge with the coming is spring ever year are unpredictable and special occurrences for children. A drawing that creates the emotion of seeing the first signs of life after winter is a very valuable one.  

And those borders that children set for themselves to solidity their peripheral vision? Could it be their way of reminding themselves that the world actually does exist? To center their mind in one direction, reality, and then go from there. So what did Picasso mean when he praised children’s ability to create art? I believe that children’s art directly reflects a deeper, innocent yet genuine, meaning of the world.

Pictured above is my attempt at drawing like a child.

20 thoughts on “To Draw Like a Child

  1. When I create art — or even when I blog, which is an art — I try to make my main aim to play and have fun. I guess that’s kind of childlike. Whatever it is, it works for me.

    Another thought-provoking post, Kat!

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    1. I try to be like that too- with art and with writing. It’s difficult, because I always have a vision of how the “perfect” version of what I’m creating should look like. I always try my best to get rid of it, but it doesn’t ever seem to go away.


  2. This is the second time today I’ve heard that quote from Picasso! Maybe it’s the universe telling me I need to CTFO about my drawings, haha. For some reason, it’s a lot harder for me to turn off my inner critic when drawing than it is for me to do when writing.
    Lovely post 🙂

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  3. Wow. I am truly amazed. I love to draw, I am a child/ish but everything is so much more mature and, well, not as I really want it to be. I created this digital ‘art’. It was simply just me switching brushes and tips but it turned out so beautiful, and I can’t create that again.
    Haha, sorry for ranting, I must share this post to the world!

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    1. Thank you so much! I’ve always wanted to try digital art, but there something about the immaterial aspect of it that draws me away. Art for me had always been creating something that hadn’t existed before, and digital art isn’t quite like that, I think. I’ve seen some of your art on your blog, and I think it’s very good. I know that when I try different media, my first few pieces always turn out well, but then I start getting expectations about what my art should look like. But Definitely continue with it! we all have so much more to create.

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  4. I think children translate their curiosity and innocence into art! They defy what we call logic and norms and that’s what makes it beautiful 🙂

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  5. Intriguing post! I think adults live in a world of “what-should-be” and children live in a world of “what is”. The art of children are expressions of how the world is experienced according to their own senses — which are often vivid, imaginative, distinctive, and not yet dulled and cowed by the conventions of their teachers/parents. You drew pictures of purple tulips with the feeling in which you experienced them, “what was” and not with the feeling of how they are supposed to look, or, “what-should’ve-been”.

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    1. Exactly! I wish I could find some of my childhood drawings, I could learn a lot from those purple tulips. When I make art now, I always try to make it look the best aesthetically, or “what-should-be”, which makes it less genuine.

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  6. All of my children and grandchildren are accomplished artists. My lastborn child won a scholarship for college with her art. The secret to their unique gift was my investment in tons of art tools and media and letting them play by expressing themselves. I never structured their time or pushed them to conventional techniques. I let them develop a love of art and not a sense of duty to the infinite rules. I used encouragement and appreciation. When a child can act out their joy and pain in a productive way such as in art and music, the mind develops in a finer way. I love your drawing, it reminds me of the inside of my head when I try to think about what I should wear to work and should my monochrome gothic style add some color. It’s when I consider the color possibilities that my mind gives me such rich hues of potential sock combinations. That usually causes me to be late for work but I clearly have fhe best sock collection in the whole organization.

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    1. That does seem like a good way to stimulate the creativity of children. I, though, was content with a notebook, pencil, and a few colored pencils when I was a child. I would be occupied for hours just drawing all the thoughts that went through my head. That’s how I see art: a translation of thoughts. As I grew older I was introduced to more types of media and learned new ways to express my thoughts. This drawing is one of my latest representations: it is meant to convey the happiness of summer. Did your daughter go to an art school? I am currently applying to colleges and am using an arts portfolio as part of my application.

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      1. I think art as an expression of the artist’s thoughts about the subject at hand is where true art comes from. Many can develop the skill to replicate a scene. To add a translation of thought is to give the art life on the canvas or other medium. Visual abstractions of one’s inner self can be the most dynamic in my eccentric opinion. 😊

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      2. I recently started to be more conscious about how the choices I make while I make art contribute to the meaning of the piece as well as what these choices say about who I am as a person. These are very interesting things to think about.

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      3. It’s an enlightening experience to see oneself invested in the art produced. Sometimes art will reveal something new to the artist that wasn’t considered before. I find artistic expression connects me to my inner sanctuary and brings my visions to life in a way I sometimes didn’t expect. Plus, drawing or painting is such a therapeutic exercise, its lime mind yoga. 😁

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