We had a mum and preschooler pop into the Gallery the other afternoon after school pick up and the visit has prompted this Blog. This beautiful mum was walking around with her son and she was discussing some of the artwork with him. He was so engaged ( with his hands firmly clasped behind his back on his mums instruction, so he wasn’t tempted to touch anything ) He spoke openly about the art, what he liked and why, I was blown away. So I found this interesting post (* Extract from a Blog written by Pragya Agarwal Jan 2018 for www.thearttiffin.co.uk which I have slightly modified) that I thought I would share, it has an experiment attached if you would like to try it with your own children next time you are passing our gallery or any gallery for that matter. One condition, let us know how you go….

Children have a natural ability to interpret visual cues and gestures, as that is where their first understanding of the world comes from. Research has shown that when and how babies speak depends to a large understanding to what they see around them. Visual Experience is the key in learning words.
So, providing children with art to look at and helping them weave stories around them builds and strengthens their vocabulary.
Art can be a very effective mechanism to visually represent a story that children create in their imaginations. Sometimes young children do not have the necessary sophisticated vocabulary to express everything that they are imagining, and lack of appropriate language can inhibit their expression and in some cases their self-confidence. Visual representations through stories can also be very effective for dyslexic children and those with other learning difficulties.

Next time you are in an Art Gallery with your children try the following experiment

1. Select a Painting
Start with selecting a painting that might already have a myth or a story attached to it, or an artist who has an interesting story. We have 2 indigenous artists, Alicia Close and Troy Little; Indigenous art relies heavily on symbols to tell the story which young children respond well to. It could also be that the painting is set in a time or place that has a particularly significant context or historical event associated with it.
Depending on the age of the child, select a painting with appropriate numbers of characters or complexity of visual elements. Sometimes it helps to find an artwork that is related to a place that the child is familiar with or a place that is meaningful for the child as a starting point.

2. Observe
Encourage them to really observe the painting. This is not just about saying whether they like it or not, but to start looking at specific details.
Things such as: colours, shapes, characters and interaction between them, foreground and background, unusual textures.  Avoid judgement and let the child take the lead and what they really see. Keeping the questions open-ended would help too.

3. Step into the Picture
After seeing ‘what’,They can then be guided through a discussion of ‘when’ and ‘why’. This encourages critical and creative thinking, and unleashes their imagination. Ask them to metaphorically step into the picture, and inhabit the world in the painting. They can start developing a story around their own character in the artwork.

Some of the prompts that could help them are:

• Which character are they?
• Which other characters and objects are they interacting with?
• What is the mood and the atmosphere?
• How is their character feeling, and why?
• What might have happened just before the event shown in the image?
• What will happen next?

4. Create New Places and Characters
Storytelling can also involve creating new characters and devising new interactions beyond what is visible. This takes the painting as a starting point, and uses it as a stepping stone to create a whole new narrative, scenarios, dialogue and themes. Children can then also be encouraged to create their own pictures based on these new stories that they have created. These would form a set of pictures showing the new characters they create, the places they envisage and visualise, and translating some of the analysis they did in the original artwork into their own drawing using things such as atmosphere, symbols, motifs, colours, form, shapes and textures.

All our art is on our website so when you leave the gallery your children can revisit the painting to help create their own masterpieces.

The role of pictures and drawing in developing children’s communication skills has been proven. By encouraging them to create and tell stories through art and also use stories as a basis for new artwork has huge developmental and cognitive benefits. It will also nurture a life-long love of art, while introducing very important skills of observing closely, interpreting and analysing visual media and culture. While doing so, it is really important to give children the time to observe, reflect and question their own preconceptions, values and judgements.

Please email us the artworks your children create using the art in Manly Harbour Gallery as inspiration and we will happily post it on our social media pages.