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A new theory on children’s drawings: Analyzing the role of emotion and movement in graphical development

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The aim of this paper is to develop a new understanding of children’s drawings and to provide ideas for future research in early childhood. Starting from classic theories on child graphical development, we proceed to analyze them and provide our own views on the subject. We will also recount a number of relevant empirical studies that appear to validate our theory. Our belief is that emotion and self-expression through movement play a key role in the development of child art, and that this may be already visible during the scribbling stage of drawing.

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... There are different theories of children's drawings, one of them being developmental theory, dating back to 19 th Century when children's drawings were started to be seen as insights into their mind and cognitive development (Quaglia et al., 2015). At the same time, visual arts were recognised as fundamental to education, in line with the need for design skills in the context of the industrial revolution (Milbrath et al., 2015). ...
... The key characteristic of Luquet's theory, still holding in contemporary accounts, is the progression towards visual realism (Milbrath et al., 2015). According to Luquet, children first start making marks with no intention to make an image, and through socialisation gradually progress towards realism in four phases: casual realism (when children begin to notice analogy between traces on the paper and the shape of real objects), missed realism (when children start to show clear intent of drawing identifiable object), intellectual realism (representing an object as "it is" in canonical views) and visual realism (representing object as "it is seen" in view-specific depictions) (Quaglia et al., 2015). Even though linear perspective cannot be acknowledged as the only endpoint of drawing development, children drawings nevertheless do orientate towards realism as they mature (Milbrathet al, 2015). ...
... However, two annotations should be added to properly understand such developmental progression towards realism. First, that the fallacy of assuming that children desire for realism is inborn, which is a relic of Western aesthetics (Quaglia et al., 2015). The mind-set has changed in contemporary developmental theories from the realistic to aesthetic perspective, emphasising that a preference for abstract art in some children does not imply a developmental shortcoming of the child but is an expression of child's own aesthetic sense. ...
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Differences in drawing development are conditioned by genetics, environment and individuality of children. Therefore, it is exciting to observe the drawing development in children, who are raised in the same environment and have a similar genetic basis, that is in twins, triplets, and so forth. In the study, we were interested in the similarities and differences in the drawing development of the triplets, two of which were identical twins (B1 and B2) and one was non-identical (A), and whether the characteristics of the drawing appear more congruently between B1 and B2 than with A. We proposed two hypotheses: H1: There are more similarities in drawings between identical twins (B1 vs B2) than between identical and non-identical one (A vs B1 and A vs B2); H2: The differences between non-identical and identical triplets are less pronounced at the beginning of the drawing development (in doodle phase) and become more distinctive in later development, in drawing of figure and space. We analysed 123 drawings that the triplets (41 drawings of each triplet) drew from 1 to 12 years of age at the same time and on the same topic. The results of our research have shown that both hypotheses can be confirmed. On the general level, there are more similarities in drawing between identical twins compared to non-identical ones; and the differences and similarities become more distinctive throughout the development, especially in figure drawing and in the depiction of space.
... However, in order to value the drawings authenti- cally as a means of communication in and of themselves, it is imperative to analyze students' drawings through a hermeneutic framework of their own, in accordance with the semiotics of interpretation. By doing so, the artworks are placed at the center of the analysis, which deems draw- ing as an innate by-product of children's self-expression ( Quaglia et al. 2015). We acknowledge that this is an emerging field and so our analysis is undertaken within frameworks of previous research that are still being studied and developed. ...
... By doing so, the viewer enters into a dialogue with the artwork, and the opportunity for deeper insight through the semi-structured interviews is subsequently available, through a participant-centered approach (Freeman, 2014). The analysis of the students' artworks thereby acted as the esthetic springboard for conversation, in aiding students to express themselves through an alternative means of com- munication ( Quaglia et al. 2015). ...
... The caption 'sick' sheds further light on Helen's inter- pretation of Classroom B, and provides additional support These drawings have been analyzed through Adoniou's adapted framework (see Table 3) using understandings of art interpretations developed by researchers such as Runion (2017) and Quaglia et al. (2015). In extrapolating that research to participants with ASD, our analysis of the drawings connects research on visual perception and ASD in a new way. ...
Article
Objectives To date, there has been little qualitative research exploring how students interpret visual sensory input in the classroom. Research has found that seeking student voice has the capacity to act as a change agent for Educational Quality of Life (EQOL), in several aspects of educational decision-making. In light of this knowledge, this study endeavored to fill this gap in the educational research literature. In this research, we take a qualitative, deductive approach to exploring students’ interpretations of ‘visual clutter’ in the classroom, to seek to improve EQOL. Methods Through Arts-informed methodology, this study sought students’ interpretations of ‘visual clutter’ in the classroom. The study was conducted in three stages using photo elicitation, draw and talk, and semi-structured interviews. Results In seeking three students’ voices regarding their personal interpretations of ‘visual clutter’ in classrooms, light was shed on four themes: color palette, feature congestion, affordances, and spatial size, which were each shown to elicit negative emotional responses from the students. We analyzed the drawings of one child in depth as an exemplar for the qualitative methodology used. Conclusion Student voice is central to educational quality of life. In seeking student voice, students are given the opportunity to convey the scope of their adaptive responses to incoming visual input, thus providing personal context to support measures. In doing so, student voice is given meaning in another facet of educational decision-making. This can include implications for classroom design.
... This behavior sometimes makes parents angry so often scold what children do. However, many researchers argue that the images and scribbles made by children are considered as a mirror of the development of children's representation [2]. Drawing is one approach that is used for the study of cognitive development, assessing images of children can see children's understanding of the world. ...
... The use of drawings as a form of systematic research is growing. Early theorizing (e.g., Gardner, 1980) has resulted in new theories (e.g., Quaglia, Longobardi, Iotti, & Prino, 2015) and empirical projects (e.g., Aradau & Hill, 2013;Elkoshi, 2015) in multiple fields. Melissa Freeman and Sandra Mathison (2009), for example, document the use of drawing in many nontherapeutic investigations in domains, including education: for example, ele mentary students' experiences of reading and writing in school, students of all ages react ing to taking state standardized tests, and children drawing images of teachers. ...
Chapter
This chapter provides a view of music assessment predicated on a belief that the what of assessment in P-12 music education should include understandings and attitudes about music and culture not typically ascertainable through traditional music assessment prac­ tices that focus on performing ability and knowledge of musical elements. Six vignettes show the various ways that children's drawings, as a projective technique of visual repre­ sentation, might be used to expose and discern (i.e., assess) children's thinking, under­ standings, and attitudes about music and culture. It is argued that the multimodality of drawing and talking in response to musical prompts opens up rich potential to inform in­ struction that better accounts for the lifeworlds of children.
... Symbolic icons are abstractions insofar as they point to a generalized prototype rather than a concrete object (Uttal, Liu, DeLoache, Balter, & Tamis-LeMonda, 1999). Because young children evaluate their drawing as good or bad (Quaglia, Longobardi, Iotti, & Prino, 2015), it may be the case that sketching is evaluated by young children as not adequate to their aim of drawing an unambiguously recognizable object. ...
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Research on children’s drawings in general follows methods and concepts in developmental research. Early concepts of intellectual and visual realism in drawing are described. Children’s drawing of objects and space systems, the impact of intelligence, perception, neuropsychological status and the onset of writing are explained. Structure, expression and regression of drawing are discussed. Recent approaches which incorporate sensori-motor and executive skills are presented with regards to drawing.
... Eisner (2013) also identifies drawing as an 'elementary form of expression' (13) that allows children to develop their imagination, emotional responses and personality in a creative way. Drawing is considered a developmental product ( Quaglia et al. 2015), a process and purposeful way of creating meaningful marks on paper ( Adams 2002;Coates and Coates 2011;Hall 2008), 'a meaning-making process in which children draw signs to express their understanding and ideas in a visual-graphic form' ( Hopperstad 2008, 134), or, as Longobardi, Quaglia, and Iotti (2015, 81) describe it, 'the emergence of mental representations and, thus, the ability to use a signifier to evoke meaning'. From these definitions, we consider children's drawings as multimodal artefacts, which they use to shape and represent their mental images and signs onto paper. ...
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This paper examines the schematic underpinnings in the drawings of a four-year-old girl, Thea. The paper reviews literature on graphic representations, signs and meaning-making before discussing schematic form in children’s drawings, the theoretical background for the study. The paper discusses ethical issues and methodological approaches to the study where data include drawings made at home and school, Thea’s recorded talk about drawings, and video recordings of her drawing sessions over a four-months period. These were coded manually and using NVivo to identify schemas. The paper discusses examples of Thea’s exploration of enclosure and trajectory schematic form, which are represented by rich content derived from her experiences and imagination. The paper concludes that Thea’s drawings included many schematic signifiers with clear evidence of complex thinking around enclosures and of vertical and horizontal trajectories. The paper evidences the importance of listening to children’s talk as they draw in order to understand more fully, the meanings they are making. Through signs, symbols, and personal narratives, Thea used drawing as a meaningful semiotic space where her persistent schematic concerns were manifest.
... When we have talked about the beginning of graphical activity, we have often underlined the child's apparent lack of interest for his or her creations (Ring, 2006; Thomas & Silk, 1990) and this has made us believe that children draw mostly for the satisfaction they receive from the mere motor activity of this gesture. In our experience as a researchers of child art (Longobardi et al., 2012.; Quaglia & Saglione, 1976; Quaglia et al., 2015), we have discovered that the child's first graphical gestures are not motivated by the graphical product, but by the desire to imitate adults, particularly parents and teachers. In fact, they imitate the gesture and not the result. ...
Article
The aim of this paper is to develop a new understanding of children’s drawings and to provide ideas for future research in early childhood. Starting from classic theories on child graphical development, we proceed to analyze them and provide our own views on the subject. We will also recount a number of relevant empirical studies that appear to validate our theory. Our belief is that emotion and self-expression through movement play a key role in the development of child art, and that this may be already visible during the scribbling stage of drawing.
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Our aim in this book has been to provide a selective review of psychological theories of children's drawings and some important recent research. The book is intended primarily for students of psychology who need an introduction to this aspect of child development, but also for teachers in schools and art colleges who need a concise, well-referenced and up-to-date source of information on psychological approaches to children's drawings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Examined the human figure drawings of 344 3–8 yr olds. Findings show that most Ss spontaneously drew the head before the trunk and overestimated the size of the head. The greatest overestimation was found in the older age groups. The drawings of Ss who drew the trunk before the head portrayed relatively smaller heads. A narrow neckline on a predrawn figure reduced the size of the added head. When the head was drawn first, Ss often left insufficient space for a visually correct depiction of the trunk, which was then drawn relatively too small. When the trunk was drawn first, Ss always left enough space for the head, and the figures were usually correctly proportioned. The typical overestimation of the head reflected Ss' planning rather than their concept of the human figure. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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G.-H. Luquet's Le Dessin enfantin was one of the first books devoted to children's drawings and is widely regarded as a classic. Yet Luquet is now mainly remembered for his distinction between 'visual realism' and 'intellectual realism', and for the formula 'children draw what they know, not what they see'. Luquet's contribution was much more extensive, however, and his account of intellectual realism more subtle, even radical, than widely assumed. Like the cubist painters of his time, Luquet questioned the 'naturalness' of linear perspective, and the supposed deficiencies of children's ways of drawing objects and events. This first English-language publication will make Luquet's work available to the reader first hand and will be of interest to psychologists, art educationalists, and historians of art. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Background The aim of the present study was to examine to what extent the verbal definitions of familiar objects produced by blind children reflect their peculiar perceptual experience and, in consequence, differ from those produced by sighted children. Methods Ninety-six visually impaired children, aged between 6 and 14 years, and 32 age-matched sighted children had to define 10 words denoting concrete animate or inanimate familiar objects. ResultsThe blind children evoked the tactile and auditory characteristics of objects and expressed personal perceptual experiences in their definitions. The sighted children relied on visual perception, and produced more visually oriented verbalism. In contrast, no differences were observed between children in their propensity to include functional attributes in their verbal definitions. Conclusions The results are discussed in line with embodied views of cognition that postulate mandatory perceptuomotor processing of words during access to their meaning.
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In this study, the development of representational drawing during the scribbling stage in the context of mother-child interaction was investigated. Two dyads participated in the longitudinal study for about 18 months, beginning when the children were 12 months of age. During mother-child interaction, these children often requested their mother to draw, looked at her, or provided the writing material at 12–15 months of age, suggested a drawing theme by 18 months of age, and then shared the drawing theme. In shared drawing theme, the children made marks on a particular area of the mother's drawing by 18 months, and drew particular parts of her drawing by 22 months. These results showed that the children had the intention to represent, even when they could not produce recognizable representations by themselves, and that the children shared drawing themes to participate in drawings with their mother. These findings indicate that the emergence and development of representational activity during mother-child interaction occurs as early as the child's second year. The results are discussed with reference to the development of early drawing through social interaction and to the idea of revising the assumptions about drawing development put forth by Luquet (1927).
Article
Young children enter formal schooling with a repertoire of modes of representation with which they try to make sense of the world – drawing, modelling, role play, storying, emergent literacy and numeracy. In drawing they use mark making for kinesthetic pleasure and later learn to repeat patterns and shapes intentionally. From these repeated marks they begin to explore the potential of drawings to represent what they know. A parallel set of drawing strategies with an explicit communicative function develop through social relationships at home or in pre-school/care settings. Children observe and mimic modes of representation and absorb the semiotics modelled by adults or older children in the community/culture[s] in which they are reared. On entering formal school, the messages children receive from the culture of classrooms is that the modes of representation that are valued are the formal symbolic modes of literacy and numeracy whereas teachers perceive drawing as useful for occupational or recreational purposes. Ironically, as children are cultured into ‘academic’ achievements, they lose out on opportunities to engage in alternative modes of representation/symbolic systems, which may offer opportunities for cognitive challenge at higher levels. Thus, whilst pushing children to perform ‘academically’ in the early stages of schooling, we underestimate them ‘intellectually’. At elementary school level children’s mark-making is shaped into a ‘catch-all’, narrative/representational style of drawing across all subjects. Children often elect to explore their own personal, culturally specific ways of drawing outside school as ‘home art’. In school their capabilities in using alternative modes of representation as tools for learning wither away.
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Young children's ability to understand and produce graphic symbols within an environment of social communication was investigated in two experiments. Children aged 2, 3, and 4 years produced graphic symbols of simple objects on their own, used them in a social communicative game, and responded to experimenter's symbols. In Experiment 1 (N = 48), 2-year-olds did not effectively produce symbols or use the experimenter's symbols in the choice task, whereas 3- and 4-year-olds improved their drawings following the game and performed above chance with the experimenter's symbols. Ability to produce an effective graphic symbol was correlated with success on a task that measured understanding of the experimenter's symbols, supporting the claim that children's ability to produce a graphic symbol rests on the understanding of the symbolic function of pictures. In Experiment 2, 32 children aged 3 and 4 years improved their third set of drawings when they received feedback that their drawings were not effective communications. The results suggest that production and understanding of graphic symbols can be facilitated by the same social factors that improve verbal symbolic abilities, thereby raising the question of domain specificity in symbolic development.
Article
Sex differences in a visually realistic drawing style were examined using the model of a curvy cup as an inanimate object, and the Draw-A-Person test (DAP) as a task involving animate objects, with 7- to 12-year-old children (N = 60; 30 boys). Accurately drawing the internal detail of the cup--indicating interest in a depth feature--was not dependent on age in boys, but only in girls, as 7-year-old boys were already engaging with this cup feature. However, the age effect of the correct omission of an occluded handle--indicating a transition from realism in terms of function (intellectual realism) to one of appearance (visual realism)--was the same for both sexes. The correct omission of the occluded handle was correlated with bilingualism and drawing the internal cup detail in girls, but with drawing the silhouette contour of the cup in boys. Because a figure's silhouette enables object identification from a distance, while perception of detail and language occurs in nearer space, it was concluded that boys and girls may differ in the way they conceptualize depth in pictorial space, rather than in visual realism as such.
Article
Depicting space and volume in drawings is challenging for young children in particular. It has been assumed that several cognitive skills may contribute to children's drawing. In the present study, we investigated the relationship between perspective-taking skills in complex scenes and the spatial characteristics in drawings of 5- to 9-year-olds (N= 121). Perspective taking was assessed by two tasks: (a) a visual task similar to the three-mountains task, in which the children had to select a three-dimensional model that showed the view on a scene from particular perspective and (b) a spatial construction task, in which children had to plastically reconstruct a three-dimensional scene as it would appear from a new point of view. In the drawing task, the children were asked to depict a three-dimensional scene exactly as it looked like from their own point of view. Several spatial features in the drawings were coded. The results suggested that children's spatial drawing and their perspective-taking skills were related. The axes system and the spatial relations between objects in the drawings in particular were predicted, beyond age, by certain measures of the two perspective-taking tasks. The results are discussed in the light of particular demands that might underlay both perspective taking and spatial drawing.
Article
The current study analyzed figure size modification in different types of spatial context (C. Lange-Küttner, 1997, Lange-Küttner, 2004) for sequence and practice effects. Children of 7, 9, and 11 years of age, as well as 17-year-olds, drew figures in a series of ready-made spatial axes systems, which (a) logically increased in dimensional complexity as in child development, (b) were randomized in sequence, or (c) were absent, as a control condition for figure size reduction through practice. Already 7-year-olds could subtly adapt figure size in the logical sequence, but the amount of size reduction stayed within the same size range as in the other two conditions. Only at 9 years of age did children show sensitivity to spatial constraints, with smaller figures in both the logical and random sequence than in the control condition. At 11 years of age, the spatial scale of figure size was maximized, particularly so in children who could change perspective and construct a bird's-eye view, whereas this effect was attenuated in the 17-year-olds. Implications of the results for domain-specific conceptual development are discussed.
Article
It has long been maintained that the child "draws what he knows rather than what he sees": Piaget argues that the mental image is a dominant factor in intellectual realism in drawing and copying up to about 7 or 8 years of age. Intellectual realism was investigated by using an object with long-term familiarity as a model. A cup was presented to children with the defining feature (the handle) not visible, and a nondefining feature (a painted flower) visible. There was a developmental trend in the tendency to stop including a handle in the copy and to start including the flower. This change from intellectual to visual realism occurred between 7 and 8 years of age. There may be several factors contributing to intellectual realism.
Article
People acquire spatial information from many sources, including maps, verbal descriptions, and navigating in the environment. The different sources present spatial information in different ways. For example, maps can show many spatial relations simultaneously, but in a description, each spatial relation must be presented sequentially. The present research investigated how these source differences influence the mental models that children and adults form of the presented information. In Experiment 1, 8-year-olds, 10-year-olds and adults learned the layout of a six-room space either from verbal descriptions or from a map. They then constructed the configuration and pointed to target locations. Participants who learned from the map performed significantly better than those who learned from the description. Ten-year-olds performed nearly as well as adults did. The 8-year-olds' mental models differed substantially from the older children's and adults' mental models. The younger children retained the sequential information but did not integrate the relations into a survey-like cognitive map. Experiment 2 demonstrated that viewing the shape of the configuration, without seeing the map in full, could facilitate 8-year-olds' use of the verbal information and their ability to integrate the locations. The results demonstrate developmental differences in the mental representation of spatial information from descriptions. In addition, the results reveal that maps and other graphic representations can facilitate children's spatial thinking by helping them to transcend the sequential nature of language and direct experience.
Learning to draw and drawing to learn Journal of Art & Design Education: 18
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