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Analyzing Childrens Artwork through Qualitative Research

Kaitlyn Fendler
University of Missouri


Analyzing Childrens Artwork through Qualitative Research
As a teacher of a general education classroom, it will be common to find various methods
of artistic happenings occurring in my classroom on a frequent basis. While art is important to
integrate into an everyday classroom setting, it is even more crucial to be able to analyze a
childs artistic development through their drawing samples. By critiquing childrens artwork, the
teacher will be able to provide a groundwork to base the students future pieces off of; the teacher
will be able determine which stage of artistic development said student is at and will be able to
provide a project that relates to their individual needs. In addition, analyzing various pieces of art
will allow me the opportunity to better understand how to evaluate the students meaning behind
their drawings. By following the guidelines set by differing artists, I will be able to understand
what the students are trying to represent beyond their words but instead through their pictures. In
my eyes, examining artwork can help the teacher gain a better understanding of the particular
representation they are gaining throughout the lesson while encouraging students to express their
thoughts through artwork.
Prior to beginning my examination of this piece of artwork, I researched different aspects
and characteristics of developing artists. For my observations, I analyzed a piece of work from a
young artist named Amelia. In order to notice the varying elements utilized to create this
particular artwork, I examined the drawing closely while using an artistic lens. Amongst the
various techniques found within this drawing, the ones that stood out the most were the features
that show specific artistic skills. While looking at the self-portrait, I highlighted characteristics
that stood out to me and made notes regarding the different geometric shapes that formed the

body, the vibrant colors that made this illustration unique, and the intriguing details that defined
the clothing and facial features.

The drawing shown above revealed many interesting characteristics related to
development in childrens artwork. This piece of artwork can be seen as a self-portrait as it
represents a young, female body, similar to that of the artist herself. The image appears to be a
person as the circle appears head-like due to the placement of smaller shapes within the circle
that suggest facial features. These smaller symbols appear to represent two eyes, eyebrows, a
nose, and big, rounded lips. In addition, the image represents a person wearing a purple blouse
alongside a pink skirt tailored with black ruffles. This artist also placed black high-heels on the
characters feet. To make the picture more interesting, this young developing artist included a
black necklace along with a gold crown placed amongst the long, curly brown hair that overlaps
body segments. In addition, Amelia made the person in the portrait have rosy checks, blue eyes
with dark eyelashes, and thick, dark-red lips. This drawing occupies the majority of the paper,
incorporates no background, and clearly represents a person.

According to Lowenfeld and Brittain (1970) and their stages of artistic development, I
would place this childs drawing in the Schematic Stage with hints of characteristics presented in
the Gang Age. This young artist seems to be transitioning through the two stages. After
analyzing the students artwork, it seems as if she has some active knowledge of the
surrounding environment (Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1970, p. 476) and therefore establishes a
baseline to construct her self-portrait. This technique can be found in the Schematic Stage. For
the most part, this illustration accurately displays a person. This child created the body out of
geometrical shapes and has placed the body parts in the correct place, making the illustration
look more realistic. In addition, this student demonstrates great awareness of clothing details a
common feature found throughout the Gang Age. The fringe demonstrated along the bottom of
the skirt in addition to the make-up, necklace, and gold crown found on this picture also indicates
some characteristics of a Gang Age artist. While there is some detail to clothing, there are still
various examples of distortion and exaggeration represented in this drawing which leads me to
believe that this artist is not a full-time resident of the Gang Age yet.
Wilson & Wilson (1982) might say that my child is applying the Plastic Principle because
of the detail that this child drew with. She paid attention to detail by creating a baseline to place
the individual upon, drawing correct body parts, and adding minor details to the clothing. In
addition, I believe that this drawing demonstrates this principle because the person has
exaggerated features throughout the illustration and solely focuses on drawing them self. This
illustration focuses on me rather than incorporating other individuals as well. Another
principle that can be seen when analyzing this drawing is the Perpendicular Principle. This artist
demonstrates this technique when looking at the format of the arms; the sleeves in the picture
stick out from the body, resembling the letter T. The fact that the arms hang down more

naturally from this stiff T shape suggests transition; its like the child is noticing ideas she
cannot express yet visually. Just like many other individuals, this artist seems to only focus on
two of the Wilson & Wilsonss principles which therefore creates precedence over other factors.
This young artist has done a fantastic job on the figure by incorporating various details, volume,
and overlapping techniques. However, in order to encourage further development, teacher
guidance will be beneficial.
After analyzing this piece of artwork, it is clear that this young artist has strong
techniques and characteristics that fulfill Lowenfeld and Brittains (1970) Schematic Stage with
tendencies towards the Gang Age. In order to guide this student towards the more advanced
stage, it will be my job as a regular classroom teacher to encourage artistic growth. While the
body shape and details are clear throughout the drawing, the artist has left the space surrounding
the figure blank and does not seem to relate the figure with others or symbols. By doing so,
Amelia does not seem to create a fully developed picture. In order to create a better-rounded
piece of work the Maryland Board of Education (1974) states that my job as a teacher will be to
encourage this child to explore surrounding to suggest backgrounds[while]encouraging the
child to become aware of spatial relationships between himself and an object or between two
objects (p. 3-4). Since her excessive attention to detail is present in this current rendering of the
figure, this student is now ready to concentrate on the surrounding space and it will be my job to
encourage her to do so.
Recognizing a childs artistic growth and understanding the significance of child art
development is important for regular classroom teachers in general. Artistic integration allows

for children to share their thoughts through multiple means of expression. By providing all
students the opportunity to explore art allows for students who struggle in other content areas to
still be successful in their learning. For example, some students may struggle with literacy skills
yet display strong artistic qualities. Therefore, by integrating art, individuals have the
opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas in a creative manner. Moreover, by connecting
art with other areas of learning (Johnson, 2008, p. 77), students will understand the significance
of art in their everyday lives. By integrating art into core-content subjects, students begin to think
artistically about their schoolwork while incorporating artistic terms into their daily vocabulary.
Connecting two subjects brings ties amongst them as students begin to correlate the information
with all subjects. In my eyes, working with elementary students through art examination
indicates the significance of letting students express themselves in a detailed manner through
their artwork. As a teacher, it is essential to let the students explore their artistic abilities and not
disregard the significance of art as it allows them to express ideas in a unique manner. Stated
perfectly by Margaret H. Johnson, A picture may be worth a thousand words, but these words
can remain unsaid or misunderstood when adults do not attend to their development, (Johnson,
2008, p. 79). It is my job as a future educator to make sure that students have the opportunity to
express their words through art so their ideas do not go unnoticed.


Johnson, M. H. (2008). Developing verbal and visual literacy through experiences in the visual
arts. Young Children, 63(1), 75-79.
Lowenfeld, V., & Brittain, W. L. (1970. Creative and mental growth. New York: Macmillan.
Maryland Board of Education of Baltimore County. (1974). Beginning stages of visual
expression of young children. In Art Experience, Development of Visual Perception, 1-4.
Wilson, M., & Wilson, B. (1982). Teaching children to draw. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-