The Van Gogh in Every Child

There was once a news article in the London news in which they were studying the prices people paid for abstract art.

As an experiment, they got some very young children (under the age of 5) to create some paintings. The paintings were of the same quality as you would usually expect from young children. There were some lines of varying lengths, unsymmetrical shapes and blobs.

The only real difference between these works of art and the ones that tots would normally create at nursery, was that they had the children paint onto canvases and to use oils paints instead of their usual poster paints.

Once dried, the pieces of art were placed in front of leading art critics and gallery owners. They were first asked if they were familiar with the style and if they could recognise the artist. Then they were asked to give the piece a price tag that they would expect it to fetch, if placed in front of a keen collector of modern and abstract art.

It will probably come as no great surprise that the ‘experts’ were coming up with all sort of guff! Some said they recognised the artist or made statements like “This shows some similarity to the work of…”

They seemed to be completely fooled!

On average the work of the toddlers was priced around the £125 bracket. Their parents watched flabbergasted at the shenanigans on a TV monitor away from the experts and were suitably impressed that their children were awarded with an expensive talent at such a young age.

The experts later met the artists and concealed their embarrassment by claiming that the children showed real artistic promise and that their skills should be cultivated.

And they were right to say that. Art is typically considered to be the subject that adults encourage when all hope of a bright future in an area that requires good grades in English, maths or science have long been dashed. Art, much like music and drama, is one of those subjects that many children crave and few are encouraged to flourish in, with it being seen as less important than the more academic subjects.

And yet art offers young people a means of expression, an outlet of creativity and a sense of achievement and satisfaction that they may struggle to achieve in other learning areas.

For those who are less academic and more creative, a keen interest and ability in art can offer them a much needed acknowledgement. It can give them praise that they might have otherwise bypassed and can therefore boost self-esteem for those who thought that they were all but hopeless.

With art and the creative activities associated with it, encouraging young people to access different parts of their brain to more traditional subjects, surely the intellectual exercise that this provides – stimulating different neural networks to develop new ways of thinking and even problem solving -can only been seen as a good thing.

Creative distancing ( teaches us that new ideas can be applied to problems when we use our minds to create different perspectives on problems. When we undertake an artistic challenge, our brain is used in a different way to when we use it for academic skills. By embracing art as a vehicle to underpin academic skills in young people, we can give them access to new problem solving, expanded ways of thinking that they might not otherwise have had the potential to learn.

By Gemma Bailey

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