Dec 2, 2011

A Young Mathematician's Version of Art

All I wanted was a simple circle snowman or a stick figure reindeer, but that was not to be.  My son was trying to draw a picture for a Christmas card to send to his grandma. He used to draw wonderful detailed pictures when he was younger, but now he stares at blank paper unable to start.

He has elaborate ideas in his head but won't attempt to draw them, because they won't be perfect. It has taken a while for me to understand this. No amount of claims about art not needing to "be perfect" helps. I now realize that the reason his art work seemed more detailed than other children's art when he was younger, was because the thoughts and images in his head were also more detailed. 

However at three or four, they weren't so intricate yet that his hands couldn't still draw an image he was happy with. Now at seven, his ideas and thought processes have zoomed way ahead of his fine motor skills and he is unable to produce any drawn image he is happy with. It's also one of the reasons he hates to write words, because they are not perfect.

Today I thought I'd help him get started by giving him some Christmas shaped cookie cutters to use as templates. I thought I was onto something when I saw him busy putting pencil to paper. I was wrong.
Moments later I found him cutting out a ruler he had drawn, so that he could measure the different sizes of the cookie cutters.

He then used his "handmade ruler" to measure his work space and decided it needed to be expanded in order to be more useful. That led to drawing a floor plan, re-arranging furniture and constructing shelving etc, etc... Maps, diagrams, algorithms and so forth are all acceptable uses for a pencil in his mind.

So we do not have a Christmas card for grandma, but he does have a more functional crafting area, should he ever decide to actually craft! Oy.


Lin said...

Oh no! I hope he gets over that perfectionism so he can just enjoy drawing again. Too many of us block ourselves from just having fun with art.

Kit said...

I had a similar problem for a while. My art teacher said that sometimes not caring about the end product was the best way to produce a great piece of art. She suggested I draw something with the intent to rip it up and put it in the garbage, Which I did, over and over, even if it was good. It helped me loosen up, and just let it go. Then after doing that for a few weeks, I kept everything. She forced me to take a painting that I hated, and keep going with it, until I was satisfied even if that took me more than a year. I painted the same subject over and over and over (and over) until I was satisfied that I knew how to paint a bird, or flower, or what ever. Art is like Math or Grammar or anything else you learn in school - It's practice.
Remind your child of that whenever he is afraid to start - because being afraid to start something is being afraid of failure, and that's something that we all have to get over at some point in our lives.

(sheesh - I started reading this blog for your potty training advice and look at who's dishing it out now.)

DJ said...

@Lin: I hope it's just a phase, I loved his drawings from the early years.
@Kit: Thanks for the advice, he may like the idea of ripping it up.

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