As part of my quest to not only draw stick figures forever, I’m reading the classic book Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain. The section on brain development in children is fascinating.
When we’re infants, our brain hemispheres are not clearly specialized for different functions. That “lateralization” for left and ride brain doesn’t complete until age nine or ten.
This coincides with when kids start obsessing about “getting it right” and become sharply critical of their earlier drawings. They start regarding failure as anything less than perfect realism. I HATE THIS HORSE!!! *paper crumpling*
“Discontented with their own accomplishments and anxious to please others with their art, they tend to give up original creation and personal expression. Further development of visualizing powers and even capacity for original thought may be blocked at this point. It is a crucial stage beyond which many adults have not advanced.”Miriam Lindstrom, Children’s Art
Not surprisingly, many kids abandon art completely at this age. And when adults are asked to draw many years later, they often generate work at a 9-10 year old level.
This is SO sad. How many blossoming Picassos and little Mikey d’Angelos have stopped making art because they couldn’t draw a perfect horse? Perhaps even worth, how many billions of people curtailed personal creativity at that age and never returned?
Guess who also stopped making art at that age? Yup. ME. Oh, and I even have two parents with advanced art degrees! Instead, I pursued athletics, scholastic achievements, and Warcraft 2 or Mario Kart proficiency.
It’s Never Too Late
In case it’s not obvious, I’m not sharing my amateur beginner drawings for extrinsic validation. Nope, I’m merely hoping to demonstrate that anyone, even left-brain dominant engineers like me, possesses a font of creativity to draw, play music or whatever strikes your fancy.
We don’t need to sell (or even share) our work. The rewards are intrinsic and so palpable. Instead of passive consumption of media, we can create something that didn’t exist. How cool is that!
As I’m scratching away at a portrait each night this month, I’m experiencing the glorious melting of time. It’s marvelous: My right brain takes over and my Type A productivity self disappears into the background. The same thing happens when I look up from piano practice to discover an evening has zinged by unnoticed.
Here’s to turning off that decades-old criticism that your 10-YO self perhaps experienced. Give it another chance. Order some watercolors. Buy a sketchbook. Start a blog. Sign up for piano lessons.
You won’t find perfection (ever). But perfect is boring. The magic lies in the process, the ritual of creating.
Any eight-year-old kid knows that’s true.
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