The Creative Child Within

vapors 6, photograph

“I used to draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child.”

– Pablo Picasso

In his book, Art, Mind and Brain: A Cognitive Approach to Creativity, Howard Gardner discusses children’s art in several fascinating chapters. He describes a U-shaped developmental curve in which preschool children often display tremendous creativity, then enter a phase until adolescence of relative adherence to convention from which some emerge to embrace a creative freedom reminiscent of earlier times. Some, of course, do not emerge to revisit these earlier times. I realize this is a vast generalization for which there are numerous exceptions.

What interests me is this phase most of us enter, coincident with early school years, in which we learn the conventions of our society. It may seem like we stifle that early creative impulse during this time, but Gardner makes the claim that it is a necessary interlude so that our more mature creative expression is made against the backdrop of the norm. Preschoolers don’t have that context, which is why their creativity is qualitatively different (not better or worse). As Gardner says:

“the adult artist is fully cognizant of the norms embraced by others, his willingness, his compulsion, to reject convention is purchased, at the very least, with full knowledge of what he is doing and often at considerable psychic cost to himself.”

This phase of learning society’s conventions is akin to an artist learning their craft, going through the hard and tedious work of developing their technique so that they can break the rules with intention rather than ignorance.

I found this parallel interesting, another example of how the yin and the yang are needed to create the balance needed to grow.
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5 responses to “The Creative Child Within

  1. You commentary and analysis is fascinating..especially as it applies to children and their creative process. Good to understand how it is we came to want to adhere to rules and norms..and then to let them all go and return to our natural sense of ‘being’.

    Stunning image!!!

  2. I love watching children in public places. Even when they walk it is expression in motion. When I see on skipping, I skip once they have passed and oblivious to my presence. It drives Deb nuts!

  3. A very interesting post. Often we hear that we should become as children in response to our adult tendencies. You know, all I needed to know I learned in Kindergarden…. etc. Now I have a new idea to ponder….

  4. “You know, all I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten” – great sentiment and great photo!

    Loved the Picasso quote too and Tweeted it for inspiration earlier.

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