Is my child an artistic genius?

Parents often ask me whether I believe their child is about to pen the next Rembrandt.  It is a question I often ask myself about my kids and probably with more of a critics tongue than most.  “No, no, that’s not how you draw a flying cow with laser evaporators …Sorry, what I meant to say was: yes, that’s perfect, well done!”.


Unfortunately, there are no simple or established tests to determine if your child is artistically gifted but there are signs that your child might be leaning towards a right brain style future.  One thing that appears to hold true is the parallel between intelligence and artistic endeavor.  Take a look at a number of famous artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso and Rembrandt and you will see these guys achieved high levels of academic success; sometimes well before their artistic merits emerged.  Da Vinci produced his greatest works well into his adult years so if you could only produce stick figures at the age of six, it doesn’t mean you won’t emerge as the next Matisse in your forties!


D and J painting

Drawing and painting with your kids is a hugely rewarding experience!

Kids are like sponges – after a while they start to smell.  No, just kidding.  Kids use art to express their observations of life and as there are so many facets to drawing, sometimes a single skill might emerge as stronger than other skills.  One child might have a good grasp on colour theory but struggle to understand the spatial relationships of perspective, while another might be great at simulating visual depth while hung-up on how to apply a particular medium.

Put simply,  these abilities may emerge spontaneously or develop intermittently over time, but there are some things you can look out for:

  • A love of drawing – if your kids start hyperventilating when they don’t have pens, brushes and paper within reach, you probably have a budding artist on your hands.  Not all kids that love to draw (because most kids do) will flourish artistically but of those that do, often stand out as being obsessed with their art (or a particular medium) and you can notice these differences in the first two years of childhood.
  • Imagination – artistically gifted children are hugely creative and are very good at expressing this creativity.  Transformation of thoughts and emotions into pictures comes easily for them and they almost never need encouragement to start doodling.
  • Design – young artists often demonstrate an appreciation of design disciplines such as colour, depth and movement.  Their pictures take on a level of realism not typical of their age.  They might draw a foot pointing forward rather than stuck out flat like a pancake; or an arm bending at the elbow and the wrist by seperating the depth-of-field into foreground and background.  They can represent advanced drawing techniques like perspective and depth of field long before their peers.
  • Awareness – you will sometimes notice a general overall awareness and the ability to capture life’s details in pictures when your child picks up a pencil.  It’s almost as if they want to express everything in pictures.

As a parent, you can nurture these abilities by encouraging your kids but beware of helicoptering (is that a word).  I sometimes find myself being overly critical of my own kids work, “I like your picture of the cow, really! But the legs are all wrong. Maybe you should draw it more like this …”, as I grab the crayon out of their hands and start correcting the cows deformed legs.  Don’t be critical of a child’s work or put too much emphasis on the outcome.  So what if the cow looks like a demented rabbit.  Let them experiment with different styles, subject matter and mediums.  Provide them with the right environment by possibly setting up a mini-studio, or send them to art classes.  Give them the space and encouragement to express themselves through their art.  You will get as much out of it as they do – trust me!

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