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Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Volume 1, Number 3, 2000


Making Art with Children –
much more than ‘doing it properly’:
a response to Felicity McArdle

University of South Australia, Magill, Australia

ABSTRACT In this colloquium, the author responds to Felicity McArdle’s
discussion paper, ‘Art and Young Children’ (Contemporary Issues in Early
Childhood, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 101–104). The colloquium paraphrases Felicity
McArdle’s article, examining the ‘hidden curricula’ of her discourse and
suggesting alternate views that refocus attention on the child rather than the

An exhibition of paintings by very young children in China resulted, for
McArdle, in an ‘uneasy reading’ (McArdle, 1999, p. 101) Was this because the
‘technical skill and artistry’ apparently so exceeded that which McArdle was
able to equate with the artistry and technical expertise of 4 year-old children
viewed in an Australian context, that all beliefs about what was ‘proper’ in art
teaching with young children was severely challenged. Well, good!
What exactly the beliefs were is not clear. Tension between directive and
non-directive teaching in early childhood arts is contentious, certainly (Hiller,
1993; Edwards, 1997). However, the idea of teaching ‘skills’ in drawing,
painting and modelling to young children becomes confused when identified
with McArdle’s account of her own student response to ‘life drawing’ classes
with a bullying and aggressive tutor. She seems uncertain whether this is the
model of teaching she interprets as ‘proper’, and yet appears drawn to consider
it so. Is she missing the point? ‘The genius of young children is their
imagination – they are the original, original thinkers’ (Cue, 1998).
In my experiences of working as a practising artist with children from 2
to 14 years of age, specific skills in each medium have been both directly and


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sagepub. where interactive teaching is based upon cognitive social learning principles (Bandura.Angela Anderson indirectly modelled to children. 1986. that increases the potential for creative outcomes. Anderson 1993. observational drawing or design principles. This may alter in intensity and direction according to the individual needs of the particular child and the context of the learning environment. Speck. Anderson & Yates. so that the ideas of by mohd zafaren zakaria on April 26. 34) hints at this when he suggests that many teachers hold the view that ‘ a little knowledge might hinder creativity’. 102) but gives no validation for this view. i. It is oriented to adult perceptions obtained through comparison of two ideologically different methodologies. This is a ruse for an education system that denies value to the arts as skilled. McArdle is correct in suggesting that there is ‘no single discourse here’ – nor should there be. The pedagogy of art teaching to children does not negate the teaching/learning of specific skills such as colour theory. 1986). 1999. resulting in a myriad of individual. which 330 Downloaded from cie. engagement levels and personal responses – Schirrmacher (1998) has written much that provides positive guidance in how to speak with children engaged in art practices.e. What has this to do with teaching art to children? McArdle searches for the ‘regime of truth’ – but it is the ‘child’s truth’ that matters here. it is essential to know those who are to be educated’ (Maria Montessori – a Pedagogical Anthropology cited in Hainstock. p. painting or modelling with teachers who share the experience with them. Not to share this language with young children is to deny them another skill involved in genuine art-making experiences. Hiller (1993. 2016 . Research over the past decade (Stockrocki. at any time. may be perceived as either universal or unproblematic – Montessori pioneered an ideology originated to address a significant social ‘problem’. These ideas relate back to the dichotomy between process and product. It is the knowledge of technique and media. 1978) This seems particularly relevant when considering McArdle’s description of her current research. 1999) into this very subject has identified significant outcomes in technique and creativity for children who experience interactive teaching. destitute street children in an Italian province. The visual arts do have a ‘language’ that can be taught and learnt by young children. for example. Context is the key and it is simplistic to suggest that childhood. Stewart. cultural dominance and restricted competence merge in her quest for the ‘proper’ in art teaching. 1990. p. learnable areas of human endeavour. specific techniques. What a teacher says to a young child who is making art can be oriented to discussion of the basic art elements. It is important here to emphasise her belief that ‘In order to educate. Here the term is drawn from the field of contemporary psychology. 1989. Children thrive when drawing. which can be shared with the child. She muses that ‘a good art teacher does not touch the child’s work! Hands off!’ (McArdle. The problem lies with the fact that very few who are skilled in this field are also skilled teachers. creative and skilled outcomes. McArdle’s discussion of the Classical Academy and ‘artistic temperament’ again confuses and obscures the ‘child’ as artist.

It is about inviting children both to explore and develop the technical skills that make possible and encourage individual creative expression. de Lissa Institute of Early Childhood. University of South Australia. As Mcardle suggests: there is no ‘proper’ in art education. children need opportunities to question. 2016 . However. coupled with a sound knowledge of art practice. Magill. Skills in art technique and media usage can and should be taught to children from their very earliest introduction to art practices. 331 Downloaded from cie. Development in children is a maturational process occurring over time. by mohd zafaren zakaria on April 26. maturation and learning. A RESPONSE TO FELICITY MCARDLE can best be addressed through the concept of ‘valuing’ (Edwards. It is at the point where a young child’s interest in the medium itself grows to an interest in ideas which stem from that medium that a teacher needs to be able to extend the child’s possibilities with the medium. reflect and observe with regard to both skills and techniques. to confuse this fact with a model of ‘deficit’ is to deny the reality of childhood. 159). p. Children can. 1997). as yet. It is equally important to acknowledge that development in the affective domain is an ongoing and gradual process – a ‘continuous process of internalisation. the focus is ‘the child’ and the complexity and diversity of cultural values. 1990) as being much affected by the child’s interaction with the environment. It is this eclectic unclear. not a static quality’ (Edwards.sagepub. South Australia 5072. rather. The ‘values’ attached to the creative arts by individuals and societies are not fixed. 1982. environmental factors and multiple perspectives that inform our knowledge of the ‘child in context’. St Bernards Road. Australia (chnsart@netscape. The capacity for development in art is linked to two key affective domains: the child’s predisposition to particular modes of self-expression and the child’s potential for growth. The concept of artistic development is recognised by many developmental researchers (Gardner. Correspondence Angela Anderson. In reporting’ what is happening now’. that provides the foundation for effective art programmes in the early years of learning. They can be challenged to achieve expressive outcomes which are based on technical knowledge and understanding of media and materials. Making art with children is not about judging either yourself or an inexperienced child against others who may be more experienced. McArdle reports only one contextual view apparently aligned to the ‘valuing’ responses of her adult subjects. Magill Campus. How this might inform teachers about what to do differently or more effectively is. family experiences. and do. In order for that expression to be as meaningful as possible. think for themselves. In the field of early learning. 1997. there are a myriad ways of knowing and doing.

K. (1982) The Golden Age of Drawing.C.E. Smilansky Children’s Play and Learning – perspectives and policy implications. New York: Columbia University. 332 Downloaded from R. M. Stewart. 5. (1986) Social Foundations of Thought and Action: a social cognitive theory. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. pp. 16. pp. (1997) The Creative Arts. H.E. Art & Design in Education. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice–Hall. Gardner Art. Australian Art Education. University of South Australia. P. McArdle. (1989) A Depth Art Curriculum. pp.R. A. (1990) The Role of Art and Play. The Advertiser.sagepub. unpublished Master’s thesis. Mind and Brain: a cognitive approach to creativity. (1999) Art and Young People: doing it properly. (1986) Patterning as an Important Strategy in Fostering Artistic Development. R. F. Speck. 23 November. Bandura. A. Edwards. L. 18.E. 19. 2016 . (1998) Magic. G.Angela Anderson References Anderson. (1990) The Effect of 3D Artworks Made by Adults on Children’s 3D Form. Stockrocki. 463–469. An Introduction to the Woman. (1993) How Should We Teach Art and Why We Should. 1. Schirrmacher. Hainstock. C. in E. www. Australian Art Education. & Yates. the Writings. A Process Approach for Teachers and Children. E. A. Handle with Special Care. 102–105. 3rd edn. (1999) Clay Modelling and Social Modelling: effects of interactive teaching on young children’s creative art making. New York: Basic Books. p. Cue. Gardner. the Method and the Movement. Anderson. 14. (1978) The Essential Montessori. Adelaide. by mohd zafaren zakaria on April 26. pp. 29–37. 225–237. (1998) Art and Creative Development for Young Children. New York: Delmar. Hiller. 6–19. in H.triangle. Scarborough: New American Library. Eisner. Eklugman & S. E. (1993) Children’s Three-dimensional Art Practice in Early Childhood. 128–143. 36–46. 13.W. Educational Psychology. Australian Art Education. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice–Hall. pp.