• How and Why children draw as mutual determinants of the development of drawing: A longitudinal case-study of Leos drawing

    Noah Blohm 16 STRIDE & Joanna Bagienska 15 AEMESPeter B. Pufall, faculty advisor, Department of Psychology

    Wilson (2004) identifies two conditions in which children draw. Their drawing is either spontaneous, playful drawing when what and how they draw is dictated by their interests, or it is dictated by others, class time drawing when children accommodate what and how they draw to their teachers lesson plan.

    Within this study approximately 250 of Leos playfully generated drawings done between his 1st to the 9th year in school, from age 5 to 13 years were individually assessed for how and why he drew it.

    How he draws is assessed by categorizing each of the drawings within a Levels of Drawing (LOD) scale that traces the development of realistic representation over six levels. Why he draws is defined in terms of whether a drawing is Descriptive or Narrative, that is, whether the purpose of the drawing is to depict things or scenes or to tell a story or convey an event.

    Two general questions guide this research. One, is

    the development of how children draw affected by why

    they draw? Two, are levels of representational drawing

    steps toward realism or are they a collection of

    competencies, a repertoire (Wolfe & Perry, 1989) or

    toolbox, some of which develop toward realistic

    representation while others toward unique motifs of


    Narrative Images Constants throughout Not much nature; mostly man-made

    structures Typically outdoor battle scenes with

    human/alien combatants and man-made structures (buildings, airplanes)

    Settings can be cluttered but the elements are not drawn in detail (Image 9)

    Scribbled colors accentuate explosions, collisions, blood

    When illustrating text scenes are primarily indoor or restricted outdoor scenes

    Elements specific to Early works (1st thru 3rd year) Seascapes dominate over landscapes (Image

    9) Effects of actions (i.e., explosions, blood) are

    highlighted (Image 9 vs. 10). Scenes are populated with combatants,

    vessels, and aircrafts, none are drawn in detail

    Elements specific to Later works (4th thru 7th year) Battle scenes shift to land and air over those

    at sea. Fewer explosions and scenes are less chaotic Combatants, buildings, and aircraft are

    drawn more precisely but not in more detail (Image 10)

    Space still lacks detail but is developing towards Realism, i.e., cues of 3rd dimension such as perspective (Images 10, 11) interposition and occlusion.

    How does Conventional drawing develop? Descriptive Images

    Constant Throughout Flat representations of land- and seascapes

    with no definition of sky, hints of Realistic drawing

    Line drawings with pencils and markers Minimalist use of color -- primarily accenting

    primary features/subjects When illustrating text, characters in the story

    are situated within indoor scenes or restricted view of outdoor areas.

    Elements specific to Early works (1st thru 3rd year) Nearly all include transcribed text (Image 6) Real and imagined landscapes pictured from a

    ground-level perspective Initially spaces are ill-defined and vary

    between indoor and outdoor spaces Later, spaces are complex outdoor scenes

    (Image 7) Most include buildings, houses, and castles,

    but not people or animals

    Elements specific to Later works (4th thru 7th year) Less likely to have text Landscapes dominate, primarily maps

    o Geometric maps with a birds-eye perspective emerge

    o Later, hybrid maps of topographic features, socially defined boundaries of regions, and names of features (Image 8)

    Drawing develops towards Realism with the inclusion of cues of a 3rd dimension (interposition)

    Yet maps emerge as a Conventional to dimensional Motif (Image 8).


    In general, the development of how Leo draws replicates the pattern outlined in the LOD scale.

    However, the pattern of development varies as a function of Why Leo is drawing. Leo is more likely to draw Schematically when he intends to Describe than when he intends to tell a story, and, conversely, his drawing is more often Connected when he is drawing a story than when he is describing things and scenes.

    Leos drawing indicates that development occurs both between and within LODs specifically, his Conventional drawing is transformed into Realistic drawing. However, within his descriptive drawings he creates a Conventional Motif, maps, in which realism and convention coexist.

    Advanced LODs do not displace earlier LODs. The earlier LODS persist as a repertoire or toolbox of stylistic forms that communicate different things about the same subject matter or effectively convey different feelings or emotions. Within our study it is clear that the likelihood of Leo using a tool varies depending on whether he intends to describe or narrate.


    Development of How Leo draws

    Figure 1: Percentage of Leos Descriptive drawings that fit best within LODs for each school year.

    Figure 2: Percentage of Leos Narrative drawings that fit best within LODs for each school year.

    Developmental patterning: In general, the development of Leos drawing correlates with the sequence in the LOD scale. Schematic, Connected and Conventional drawing flourishes in the early years and Realistic and Beyond Realistic in the later years.

    Deviations from patterning: The presence of an LOD is not always continuous, nor do earlier LODs decrease over time. For example, Schematic drawing appears, disappears, and increases from early to late years.

    Persistence of earlier LODs: Earlier LODs are not displaced by advanced levels; they persist over time and function in parallel with the later LODs.

    Realistic and Beyond Realistic drawing: While Realistic emerges before Beyond Realistic drawing, in the late year these LODs are co-existing forms of drawing.

    Development Independent of Why

    Further Questions

    Specific Questions

    Descriptive images


    Development Linked to Why

    Why children draw In this study why children draw is defined in terms of the

    function of the drawing; is the drawing Narrative, Descriptive, or Graphic (abstract). Because our measure of How children draw focuses on the development of representational drawing our analysis of Why Leo drew is limited to the representational function, Narrative and Descriptive.

    Narrative drawing tells a story or describes an event. (refer to examples on the poster)

    Descriptive drawing depicts subject matter, still-life, or scenes, landscapes. (again, refer to examples on the poster)

    How children draw How children draw is assessed by a level of development

    (LOD) scale we constructed based on published normative descriptions of the development phases of representational drawing. There are 6 levels:

    1. Symbolic: definitive referent but shape does not resemble the referent, no context (Image 1).

    2. Schematic: drawings represent categories of a referent; often segmented (composed of shapes); a single drawing or several that do not relate to one another (Image 2).

    3. Connected: many elements represented, generally clear referents, but no organizing context (Image 3).

    4. Conventional: many elements within a coherent setting (either outdoors or enclosed), 2-dimensional (Images 6 11).

    5. Realism: three dimensional, realistically represented, and detailed content and context. (Image 4)

    6. Beyond Realism: conveys subjective and emotional world view; displays development of a personal artistic style; includes features of various earlier forms of drawing; may be a cartoon or caricature (Image 5).


    Leo attended a private day-school in a small New England town for nine years. He was chosen at random from other students attending the school in the mid 70s.

    School PhilosophyIt was school policy to collect and archive the students

    daily drawings. Leos archive includes 251 drawings/paintings; they are now available online at the Prospect Archive of Childrens Work of the University of Vermont Libraries.

    The schools educational policy centered on self-directed and experiential learning. The children were encouraged to draw on a daily basis but there were no formal art classes. The childrens interests guided what and how they drew, constrained by the materials available. Their experience was consistent with Wilsons description of play drawing.

    ProceduresThree judges assessed each of Leos drawings in terms

    of Why and How he drew. The proportions of agreement exceeded 80% on each measure.

    Development within Conventional drawing

    Toward Realism or a Conventional Motif? The question of development within levels of drawing is relevant to

    all levels, however, in this poster we focus on the development with Conventional drawing. We had no prior categories to guide us, hence, the process is qualitative and discovery-oriented.

    Three of us independently identified qualities in Leos conventional drawing that were invariant over time and those that varied. There were two outcomes when there was variation over time. One form of variation anticipated the next level of development. Later conventional drawing would foreshadow realistic representation; the other outcome is the development of a motif. Conventional drawing appeared to be a refined version of its earliest form.

    Schematic drawing: Schematic drawing is less likely in Leos Narrative than Descriptive images.

    Connected drawing: Connected drawing is more frequent in Leos Narrative than Descriptive drawings. (He draws only one Descriptive image in the second year)

    Realistic and Beyond Realistic drawing: In the last three school years these two LODs are almost equally likely when Leo creates Narrative images, but Beyond Realism comes to dominate his Descriptive works.

    Does the development of Leos representational drawings replicate the pattern laid out in the LOD scale?

    Does the pattern of how Leo draws vary depending on why he draws? How is development similar and different between Descriptive and Narrative drawings?

    Does development occur within Conventional drawings? Does that development vary depending on why he is drawing?

    Is there evidence that Leo develops a toolbox of LODs, using earlier LODs even after he has reached a higher LOD? Does development lead to a motif, or to the next level of drawing?


    Image 6. Conventional Descriptive, 1st year, age 5.

    Image 8. Conventional Descriptive, 7th year, age 12

    Image 11. Conventional Narrative, 5th year, age 10

    Image 10. Conventional Narrative, 6th year, age 11

    Image 9. Conventional Narrative, 2nd year, age 6.

    Image 1. Symbolic,1st year, age 5

    Image 2. Schematic,1st year, age 5

    Image 3. Connected, 6th year, age 10

    Image 7. Conventional Descriptive, 2nd year, age 6

    Image 4. Realistic, 9th year, age 13Image 5. Beyond Realism, 9th year, age 13

    Is there development within other LODs? That is, do all the tools within the toolbox develop? Does the development of one influence the development of the others?

    What happens next in Leos life as an artist? Does he continue to draw, and if so, how, once he has established all the LODs and moves on from his primary education at the Prospect School?

    Is the development of drawing, both within and between LODs, common across children? The companion poster presentation on Emma indicates the answer is yes and no. How do we account for the differences? We have preliminary evidence suggesting the themes they explore constrains their choice of LODs.

    Leo experienced drawing at Prospect School drawing Wilson refers to as playful drawing, is the development described in this case study unique to this experience?

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