Action, autobiography and aesthetics in young children's self-initiated drawings

Christine Marme Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Lark-Horovitz, Lewis, and Luca [1973] described the emergence of 'subject matter specialists,' children who create series of self-initiated or voluntary drawings featuring consistent themes, characters, or settings that seem particularly compelling to them. A decade-long study of the images preschool and kindergarten children create when invited to draw in their own sketchbooks in the context of a weekly art class suggests that the choice of what to draw shapes the process of learning how to draw in decisive ways. The interests young children develop and pursue in drawing and in other forms of symbolic play are influenced by gender and by culture, by personality and circumstance. The choices children make inevitably open certain possibilities and foreclose others, shaping early artistic learning in decisive ways. Many early childhood educators [e.g., Katz, 1993] maintain that young children's learning should be firmly grounded in first-hand experience. However, children whose drawings are autobiographical in content may be less consistent in choosing topics for drawing and prone to pass the time between significant images by drawing designs and symbols which seem less personally meaningful and engaging. Children who draw upon imaginative themes seem to have an inexhaustible source of inspiration ready at hand when they begin to draw. According to Egan [1988], the fictional or mythic nature of these representations may serve young children's quest to make sense of their experiences in ways that explorations of the everyday do not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-161
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Art and Design Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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