Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Cheshvan 5764 - October 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Art and Language -- What is the Title of Your Picture?
by Devora Piha

Art is a language, a visual dialogue of sorts.

"One picture is worth a thousand words," and "Beauty (art) is in the eyes of the beholder" tells all. Ask ten people to describe the same picture and get ten different descriptions and opinions. A visual image is a springboard for a discussion, a story, an inspirational moment or the opening of an emotion.

Art projects together with a child and parent/teacher are golden fields of opportunities for language enrichment. We can talk one to one while drawing, cutting or gluing. We can ask what his/her hand is doing, what the pencil/crayon is doing. We ask about what direction he is holding the paper (long or short, length or width) or simply about what is going on in the picture. Together, we can choose the best possible word from several choices to describe what we are looking at.

Better yet, we can ask, "What is the title of your (or any) picture?" From here we lead into a discussion on the contents. Non-judgmental is best, especially if the child is sensitive. Non-threatening is important if the child is going through a difficult time. Enthusiasm is a constant here because what really matters is the child's self esteem. The child will look to you for clues and responses to his creative endeavors and his verbalizations. Be a mime and show excitement, surprise and approval. If appropriate, show concern or sadness as the visual image warrants. Sit close together in a bubble of conversation. Let the child talk. Be sensitive, observe, listen and smile. The child will show something about himself.

A small child uses drawing as a tool for incorporating new concepts into his mind's dictionary, whether it be spatial arrangements, concepts of distance, direction, color, pressure or symbolic images. His/her grasp of concepts is a building block for stories and real life sensations and experiences. Be creatively ignorant and work through primary steps along with your child as if you were a child. He should understand that everyone must think out the steps and outcome of an art project. A mother must also go from step one to step two! I like to let the child think he is doing a great job and is a better artist and creative problem solver than I am. I have nothing to lose and he has so much to gain.

To encourage your child's language development while doing art projects together, be sure to acknowledge all his efforts and look for ways to keep the project rolling ahead when you come to an impasse. Give lots of affirmation and suggestions. Try another material, another style or another subject. Find a way to come to a completion. Accomplish this by finishing the work of art and/or summing up the project and the time spent together with an enthusiastic and positive closing message.

There has been much talk about coordinating the left and right side functions of the brain. The right side controls the creative potential (abstract, imagination, introspection and intuition) and the left side, language and analytical thinking. A well-balanced person is a blend of the two forces. This is why art and language go well together. So take advantage of your child's scribble or house, butterfly and flower renditions. Talk about them. Don't forget the opening line, "What is the title of your picture?" and let little Dovi or Sorale take it from there.

Do the art activity together. Go back fifteen, twenty, thirty or forty years and have a great time. No one is looking over your shoulder except for your little companion who thinks you are a great artist. So don't let on anything to the contrary and go ahead and start from the beginning with scribbles, line dots and butterflies. Do a shared activity.

Take turns, share materials and encourage your child to ask for materials by name. Put out a small amount of paint or clay or crayons slightly out of reach so he will have to verbalize the request. Ask if he wants light yellow or dark yellow. Ask if he wants large crayons or small ones. Ask if he likes to press down hard on the paper or soft on the paper. Ask if he wants to paint something that happened to him today or what he would like his day to be like tomorrow.

Attract your child's interest in the artwork by exploring the action behind the words. Identify the five senses: SOUND (hear), TOUCH (feel), SMELL, TASTE and SIGHT (see). Enlarge your child's field of visual perception by acknowledging the overlapping relationship these words have to one another.

TOUCH: "I am making play dough." Or -- "The girl in my drawing is baking a cake."

HEAR: Play music and let child paint to the tune. Or -- "I hear the roar of the ocean waves in my beach landscape / the birds chirping in the trees."

SMELL: Add five different fragrances to each of five colors. Color by fragrance. Or, draw with three colors that match three fruits. Let bubbles of speech call out names and actions. Be enthusiastic about descriptions and novel observations.

TASTE: Draw and eat. Put on the drawing table a variety of fruits, i.e. strawberry, blueberry, banana, peach, plum, grapes. Draw accordingly with emphasis on color, size and shape. Describe what it must taste like. Eat each fruit after drawing it. Reevaluate and describe its taste.

Next Week: Art Olympics of the Mind.

Devora Piha offers private consultation or group classes on "How to Teach Art to Children" -- concepts, projects and class plans to teachers, gannanot and parents, and "Painting and Drawing" for women or groups, including groups with special needs. Also, classes for children together with mothers. Tel. 02-9920501 in Ramat Beit Shemesh.


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