Anatomy of Child Art

What you need to know when designing for children





The canvas is not merely a coarse, unbleached piece of cloth, but rather holds deeper meaning for an artist. It is symbolically a mirror of thought and emotion that the human mind and soul can possibly conjure. The birth of artists takes place at a very early age, from the moment their fifteen-month-old tiny fingers somehow manage to grasp onto crayons bigger than their own hands. Their thoughts and impressions are however subconsciously mirrored until preschool.


The most free-thinking and liberal phase of an artist’s life is during childhood. They do not inhibit their artwork based on other people’s perceptions and judgements. They draw whatever comes to mind while using a mixture of imagination, fantasy, and real-life experiences. This free spiritedness can be observed through Cooke’s four stages of development in children’s art.


The Scribbling Stage occurs between the ages of 2 and 4 when a child learns to manipulate drawing tools like crayons to conjure random dots, lines, and marks on paper, walls or any surface they find post their first birthday. During this stage it won’t be surprising when the child’s mother wakes up to see random lines drawn across her own face. Children are amused when they see the lines or colors appear. Controlled scribbling begins from their second birthday where they produce patterns of simple shapes like circles, crosses and starbursts. Once they establish controlled scribbling, they begin to name them.


The Pre-Symbolism Stage occurs from the age of 3 when the toddler begins to combine circles and lines to make simple figures. It may be impossible to assume the subject of the art without the child’s help. Figures drawn floating in space and sized to reflect the child’s view of their importance are observed in the later drawings of this stage. Most children at this age are not concerned with realistic interpretation but rather imaginative interpretation.


The Symbolism Stage begins from the age of 5 where they learn to create a vocabulary of images. Therefore, the child has learned to draw a dog, and the fundamental structure involving shape and proportion of the image will be constant. Each child develops his/her own set of symbols which are based on their understanding of what is being drawn rather than observations of their own. By this age, most children develop a “person” symbol which as a properly defined head, trunk and limbs in rough proportions. In the previous stage, the objects of the drawings would appear to float in space, but between 5 and 6 years, the child establishes a baseline to organize their space. This baseline is often a green line, which represents grass, at the bottom of the paper where the figures stand on. Slightly older children start adding skylines to place stars, clouds, the sun and moon and introduce secondary baselines for other background objects.


The Realism Stage begins between the ages of 9 and 10, when they begin to find their symbols limiting. They start to realize that the symbols are rigid and fictitious, and thus start to emphasize a realistic interpretation of the object being drawn. The child learns to use rules to organize space better and their storytelling becomes more refined.



An artist’s mind: a creative cognitive process


The human mind has potentially always been limitless and the same can be said of art. It involves a way of thinking and processing information that melds an artist’s brain and hand, opening him/her up to profound experiences in unexpected moments of focus while making art. Pablo Picasso said, “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not”. Some people are open to more possibilities than others which is central to the concept of creativity. Some think within the box, some outside it, and some think that the box doesn’t even exist. Thus, artists are open to malleable experiences and perspective.


Psychologists have claimed that accumulation of creative activities is necessary for artists to generate ideas and concepts. Citing experiences of various types of artists, composers, poets, and so on, Weisberg (1986) suggested that the creative leap is based on artists’ existing works, and that ordinary cognitive processes underline the sudden emergence of images or concepts.


In the episodic studies of a famous artist, Pablo Picasso, Gardner (1993) and Weisberg (1986) both mentioned that Picasso drew many sketches in preparation for Guernica to create great artwork. In addition to the studies of artists, in the field of architectural design research, researchers have claimed that sketches are a good medium for reflective conversation with one’s own ideas and imagery. In other words, design is seen as a process in which each designer constructs his or her own reality by his or her own actions that are reflective, responsive, and opportunistic to the design situation. It seems that designers gradually form their images while drawing their sketches. From results across studies of famous artists and architectural design, we may be able to predict that artists, especially painters, do not have entire images of their works at the beginning, but they gradually form their mental image through drawing objects.


If creation is based on artists’ previous works as Weisberg (1986) claimed, it might be difficult for artists to create a new style of artwork. In experimental studies of creative thinking using undergraduates, researchers have shown that people tend to have difficulties in crossing the boundary of an ordinary concept to create new products. Creative cognitive processes are complicated. They combine a diverse collection of cognitive activities – both mental and physical. In studies of embodied representation, researchers have argued that sensory-motor systems, such as body movement, could affect the cognitive processes (Barsalou, 1999; Prinz & Barsalou, 2000). It seems that artists’ skills and body movements may be needed not only for making their images and ideas substantial in their minds, but also for generating their images and ideas while creating artwork. If so, it is necessary to observe online creative processes of artists at work to investigate the relationship between cognition and body movement.



What Child Art Demands:

Nidhi With Kids1

Colors, silliness, and the knowledge of what children respond to are vital to what the market wants for profitable children’s illustrations. Since educational work is one of the largest niches for child art, a major portion of content for kids revolves around learning. Products and media created for children ranging from school content to a child’s bookshelf or toy collection, converge on their development and aid in supplementing whatever education they have been receiving or will receive in the future.

Good artists for children keep in mind the probable positive or negative messages children may receive. Children are unable to process abstract thought in the manner that adults do at certain stages. Thus, although many kids’ media seems rather out there and sometimes psychedelic, children are processing it as a stimulant rather than a narrative story or something that should “make sense”. Therefore, kids’ media need to be incredibly obvious and picked up by children and easily repeatable when they intend to send messages.

Children often respond well to simplistic work or even primitive styles (consider a child’s own drawings) rather than the traditional beautiful or skillful work. What matters more is the impact that work can have on a kid because they like the story or because a parent or sibling has shared it with them.There’s a lot that can qualify illustrative work for children as being good for them. Knowing that something you create, whether it’s a t-shirt design or the artwork to a storybook, may be something they repeatedly see or interact with daily and remember into adulthood can seem a bit daunting for artists. It can also be a rewarding idea and experience to have touched the everyday life of our future generations with your paintings, illustrations, or even doodles.

The vital importance of art and its continued presence in a child’s life is something Bluefish Tales understands and takes very seriously in its design process. Our endeavor is to look at the world through the lens of a child’s mind and compose a close replica on paper.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up – Pablo Picasso.



About Blue Fish:


Blue Fish is the result of grit, unbelievable talent and persevering hard work of one girl who dared to dream it big and give a concrete image to her vision that got the world charmed. Started initially by Nidhi Wadhwa, as a studio for illustrations needed in children’s books and the likes, Blue Fish has now diversified into a diaspora of every possible related spectrum needing aesthetic distinction.

We’ve been in business since over fifteen years now, having ties with many top publishing houses and satisfied clients in a vast foray of fields like textile, home decor and furnishing, animation, clothing lines, stationery, etc..



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