We’ve got a big box under our bed, full of pictures and paintings that the children have done.
Most of Rhys’ drawings from the past year have been pretty self-explanatory – they’re pictures of scenes from Angry birds. Others though, are a bit more abstract, and I’ve found myself so close to saying “that’s great… what is it?” on several occasions.
But I’m very aware that this might upset him, and I really want to encourage his creativity, not make him question his artistic abilities!
So, I’ve done some research and found some great ways to talk to your children about their art, so you can get them to explain their work to you, without hurting their feelings by making it obvious that you just can’t tell what it’s supposed to be.
I love the idea of taking the time to talk to my children about their artwork because, as well as finding out what the blob on the page is actually meant to be, it could also give some great insight into their creative process, into how they see the world and the way they think.
So, here is my advice for how you can talk to your children about their art:
The best question to ask to get the conversation started is, “would you like to tell me about your picture?”
Now, I love this for two reasons.
Firstly, it’s a lovely way of basically asking “what is it?” and secondly, this specific question gives your child control of the situation as they have the chance to say no, actually they wouldn’t like to talk about it!
Art can be so personal; even small children might not want to discuss it with other people.
But if they do want to talk about it, then this open question is a great way to get them explaining what the picture is of and what the different elements are.
Once you have an idea of what the picture is of, then you can start asking your child questions like “where did you get the idea for this from?” and “why did you chose to use this colour here?”.
This gets your child thinking about their choices and gives you great insight into what inspires them and how they see the world.
Maybe they always use the ‘right’ colours for things, because they like order and like things to be as they should be, or maybe you’ve got a creative maverick on your hands who likes to paint green skies and rainbow-coloured grass.
Either way, encourage them, there are no rights and wrongs when it comes to art!
Talk about their technique.
If your child is really into art then this is a great way to foster their interest and further their knowledge.
Asking them, “how did you draw that shape?” or “how did you create that effect for the leaves?” is a great way to get a conversation started where you can then discuss other methods that they might not know about yet.
Ask how they feel about it.
Now you might think that this one is just for older children, but talking about feelings in relation to artwork can be great even for younger children. I mean, your 2 year old might not be able to express that the red they used represents a deep-rooted rage about the current political situation, but they could talk to you about other feelings relating to their picture.
Asking them “What do you like best about your picture?” is a good place to start!
With older children you can take it further and ask them questions like “How were you feeling when you painted it?“.
You might find that at times they don’t really have an answer, and that’s fine, we all have times where we just draw and doodle and create with no particular emotion attached to the activity.
But sometimes you’ll find that they’ll be able to tell you that they were happy or sad or angry when they painted the picture, and you can then discuss how that emotion can be seen in the painting.
This is a great way to encourage your child to open up about things that are going on in their lives, as well as being a way to encourage them to think more about their artwork.
The main thing to remember, is to be led by your child. If you find that they don’t seem to want to answer your questions, then don’t push it. Don’t force them to talk about what they’ve created if they don’t seem to want to.
What you can try instead, is to make a few comments about their art, and over time you’ll hopefully find that they’ll start to open up and tell you some things about what they’ve created.
And remember, your comments don’t have to be praise, they can simply be statements about what you see. So things like, “wow, you used a lot of red in this picture” and “look at all the circles you’ve drawn” are just fine!
Do your children like to draw and paint? If so, I really hope these ideas help you next time you’re presented with a mystery work of art!