2. Circles, and Coloring Books (a Mistake?)

This is an article in the series “Drawing as it develops“, which includes a study of my daughter Amie’s drawings from 16 months onwards (this is the second article in that sequence), as well as Some Theory, Tips for teaching drawing to a very young child, and a growing bibliography.

Amie at 18 months

  • First circles

A month of so after Amie made her first scribbles, her first circular movements began to appear (28 February 2007, at daycare, orientation and handedness unknown):

Amie’s Drawing of 28 February 2007

She could not control the circular movement of her arm, so could not stop at one circle. Soon, as she got more engrossed, she started to whip up veritable whirlwinds on the page (17 March 2007, handedness unknown, probably right-handed):

Amie’s drawing of 17 April 2007

And on the same day she started practicing her “M”s or “graphs”, which would become more prominent and more controlled later on (at daycare, handedness unknown, not sure about the orientation):

Amie’s drawing of 17 April 2007

  • Some theory

Betty Edwards on this stage:

Random scribbles begin at age one-and-a-half, but quite quickly take on definite shapes. Circular movement is first because it is most natural anatomically.

  • The Coloring Book 

Around that time I gave Amie a $1 coloring book. We had great fun, “coloring” together, and she practiced her lines, squiggles and circles (“bollekes,” she calls them, in Dutch, meaning “little balls”).

The following “painting” (which is what she now called it),  is a good example of how little pressure she put on the crayon, creating “clouds” of color (I colored in the hippo’s ears, tails, eyes and nostrils; sometime at the beginning of February): 

Amie’s Drawing in Coloring Book, February 2007

The pre-drawn pictures in the books also gave her some notion of constraining her drawing movement within the shape. E.g., when there was a moon or sun in the picture, she would make a stab at filling it in. As with the apples in this picture (end of February?):

Amie’s “coloring in” of apples in her First Coloring Book

  • A mistake? 

However, I soon started to doubt the wisdom of the coloring book. On blank paper she seemed much freer: circles, lines and M’s are bolder. She also seemed to be putting more pressure on her pen when the paper was blank, which I interpreted as more enthusiasm…

If that first stage is about the pleasure of motion, I figured, it was not a good time to introduce barriers to it. She will have to color “within the lines” a lot, later in life. For now, let her be free.

So I put the coloring book aside and got her fresh, thick sheaf of white construction paper.

Next up: graphs and some naming!

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