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My son Henry has been passionate about drawing since he was little. In response to his desire to “make it look real,” both my husband and I (former art students) have taught him how to look closely, to “draw what you see,” to shade, etc. Last summer he spent a lot of time mastering cross-hatching, after having admired an etching in an old edition of King Lear. While I have always encouraged more free-form expression, in addition to showing him the stuff he is eager to learn, I have often wondered, given his perfectionist nature, if have done him a disservice by having taught him this stuff at such a young age. In other words, if you are introduced to realism too early do you cut pure artistic expression off at the knees? Having a guilt moment. Thoughts?


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Comments (4)


  1. If you are answering his questions, then you are honoring who he is and he will flourish – free form expression be damned. We get what we get despite our attempts to mold our children in the direction we feel is best. You are actually living my fantasy: In my own home, I have an art studio filled with drop cloths and supplies at the ready so that any child can drop in on a whim and create to his heart’s content. This despite the fact that my almost-9-year-old has never spent more than 30 seconds on any art project. Perhaps I should listen to my own advice?

  2. Posted by: HIlary Frambes

    If he is asking for this information, then I say no… you aren’t stifling his creativity. I do think micromanaging children’s art and can dampen their inner creative tendencies. But, your child wants to draw realistically and you are helping him do that. If he has a perfectionist nature, the drive to want to make his drawings is all part of that. There are many forms of expression. Realism can also have expressionist qualities. In other words… I don’t think you have anything to worry about! :)

  3. Posted by: Julia

    Your son is like my husband and you like his father. Both were perfectionists and good drawers, and one passed techniques and advanced knowledge to the other at an early age.

    Despite his obvious talent my husband never pursued a career in art. He has the handsomest handwriting I’ve seen and when he’s bored, he draws on the corner of notebooks endless strings of comic – like heroes and villains, but that’s it (sometimes I peruse his working notebooks, just for the visual pleasure of it).

    Do I think that approach spoiled his development as an artist? Yes, I believe that. But that wasn’t the end of the world… My husband is an engineer, and that’s how he channels his creativity and perfectionism. He never wanted to work in the industry – he’s a scholar instead, and I think his approach to his research and teaching work has a lot of artist in itself. He takes his time but he always delivers perfect results, and his mentors and especially his students never fail to appreciate that.

    So… here are my thoughts. Hope it helps.

  4. I think you don’t have anything to worry about. No guilt necessary. At least you’re drawing with him! Good work.

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