Childhood Art

A modern day critique of my art from childhood.
September 04, 2008
Childhood Art

Hi! This is my first article for Retro Junk. I have enjoyed reading many of yours.

I few months ago, I was looking through a bin that my parents had in their attic, a bin containing many of my baby paraphernalia and my elementary school papers and projects, and I experienced that fond flood of nostalgia that so many of us enjoy. This collection of memories contained, among other things, old report cards, workbook pages, and old art. I encountered many surprises. Among the items in the box was a kindergarten report card on which the teacher had commented about my bad handwriting. Hmm. . .it has not improved much since. *sigh* I also found a small trophy comprised of a wooden base, an engraved plaque, and topped with a three-inch gold baby lying on its stomach. The trophy basically announces my birth (time, date, etc.). I could not believe it. I received a trophy for being born! That is a confidence booster! I also found my official preschool diploma--again, confidence booster! Anyone else receive these types of things as a child?

Before I go further, does anyone happen to know who the following character is?

I found this figurine in the bin with the other childhood items. It is a ceramic rabbit that looks as if the character is supposed to be a stuffed animal. It almost looks like it could be a Winnie the Pooh character, but I do not remember him, or her, as being one. Is this the Velveteen Rabbit of whom I have heard. . not too much? Let me know it you recognize it.

There was a lot found in this bin about which much could be written, but this article will focus on some of the childhood art that I found among my elementary work and which inspired me to reexamine other drawings which I had stored away elsewhere. So, I gathered together a selection of drawings, paintings, projects assembled on and from construction paper, along with some other types of art that I produced somewhere between the ages of five and eleven, and I decided to stroll down Memory Lane and offer a critique my own work. What did it mean? What was I thinking? I am not an official art critic, though I did take an art class in high school and some art classes in college. However, I think I will just apply the old standard, I do not know anything about art, but I know what I like.

For example, I was pleasantly surprised by this vibrant piece from my kindergarten days:

This scan is only half of the whole rainbow. The painting was done on double-sized construction paper with what I think were watercolors. The dried paint has a slightly rough texture, and the colors have not appeared to have faded at all. Sure it is simplistic by some standards, but it is bright and reminds me of the natural cheerfulness of kids. Nice!

Most everyone of us doodled, painted, cut, glued, pasted, or glittered (is that a word?) at least one thing in our younger years. It is almost instinct for a child to at least color something with crayons (hopefully not the walls, though). There is nothing like making something for Mom or Dad or other loved ones during elementary school art time, or any time. Somewhere amidst a tornado of little hands and glue and glitter, a respectable little work of art is produced. And, wow! We were proud of those things were we not?

As best I could guestimate, the following selections are ordered in relative progression, in regards to both time and complexity. (I do not have exact dates by which to go.) Let us now browse the childhood art gallery, shall we?

This first piece is what I believe to be one of the earliest pencil drawings that I ever did:

I am not sure if this is supposed to be a self portrait. I do not ever recall having that many teeth, nor did I own such a hat to my knowledge. The drawing was done on the back of thin, 11x17 inch early computer paper. The sides of the paper have those dot matrix-style holed edges to fit over the paper guides in early printers. The other side of the paper has green and white stripes. I think this paper came from the office of Mom or Dad.

I have another drawing on this style paper, as well:

What is this supposed to be? I do not know. I think I might have been playing out a battle scene. Maybe this was my, quote/unquote, abstract phase.

These next two scans are the two halves of a whole crayon drawing done on this computer paper:

Hmmmm. . . I am not sure who these two figures are or why the green one next to the tree is bald. The bald, green man appears to be sawing down a tree next to the shelter occupied by the figure dressed in the purple and brown clothes. What is going on? Maybe they are building a house. Is the figure in purple a woman? This purple person is very skeletonesque. The head looks like a skull. . . creepy. I am sure creepiness was not the intention, though. I was still developing my skill at drawing faces.

Here is another early drawing:

This drawing is done with crayons (classic kid medium) on loose leaf (the canvas of the poor man?). The subject matter appears to be the inside of a church: pews on both sides of an aisle and an early attempt at portraying architecture near the front of the church (at top).

This next group of projects, I consider prefabricated art--drawings that were already made and just needed to be colored; or colored, cut, and pasted. Here is the first:

This is a color-by-word picture of a clown designed to teach young students their color words. Notice the Great sticker. Yeah! The page itself is probably from a teacher resource book. Note that the outlines are in light purple. I do not think I am alone in saying that this is the color of the school copies of yesteryear. Anyone else remember when all copied work for students came in the old duplicate-machine purple? Here is another example of a workbook page in that old-style copy:

I know things that start with H.

Here is a bookmark that I colored:

I love anything having to do with the Pilgrims, the Indians (Native Americans), and Thanksgiving.

Here are a few other examples of that prefab art, which I am not against. Kids love to color and paste. All these pieces are quaint.

On the back of this clown (another clown?), the teacher wrote, Cut on the lines. The arms do look a bit funny.

These are of the color-cut-and-paste-onto-construction-paper variety:

Back to the more personal art, the more spontaneous. This next piece appears to be a trace of a Native American man, another Thanksgiving project no doubt.

The traced drawing is done on construction paper and then partially colored with crayons.

It would not be childhood art time without at least one example of art made with a paper plate.

This tree in the fall season is part crayon drawing and part construction paper collage. There are a few things to note. Firstly, this project is great for the teacher because the plate can hold all the little bits of paper as the little artist works. Secondly, regarding the representation itself, I was impressed that I portrayed the roots and water below the surface. I do not know if this was teacher-directed or not. Probably was. And, the classic tree hole is there in the trunk. Also, those are not letter Ms surrounding the tree--those are birds. You know the type I mean.

Here is another colorful painting:

These are flowers.

This piece is a sand painting:

A picture or pattern is drawn with glue, and while the glue is still adhesive, sand is sprinkled over it. Then, the excess sand is shaken off. Let dry and then present to loved one.

Here are some drawings of animals done on construction paper. I hope I was not trying to imitate Picasso, whose work I do not care for, but these animals sure look odd, especially the hummingbird! I am sure that in my mind, they all looked just fine. The squirrel is actually not too bad, though (third pic in this group).

Why did I frequently draw a face on the sun? That is actually a pagan symbol. Of course, I did not know this at the time.

It is supposed to be a hummingbird. I know, I know. . . .

A squirrel.

The next piece is a double-sided crayon drawing on loose leaf. One side there is:

And, on the other side, the joke is completed:

Boat pulling a skier too fast. I always thought that was hilarious for some reason. Who is driving the boat, anyway?

Here is a painting on loose-leaf paper:

An impressionistic Thanksgiving piece. I like it a lot.

These next projects were done one summer when I was in Cub Scouts and attended a summer day camp. I am surprised by how neat the first two are--visually interesting.

I think this image was made by photocopying leaves, but I am not sure. Pretty neat, however it was done.

This image was made by securing leaves to the stiff, yellow paper, and then flinging paint at paper. The leaves were removed, and they left behind their outlines. Very crafty!

This is a (blurry) picture of what is either salt or sand art (likely salt, considering the vivid colors achieved). The jar is taped shut, and I did not want to open it. The piece consists of a baby food jar filled with layers of colored salt that flow into each other and create cool patterns.

At one point during my later childhood, one of my parents brought home a stack of this 8½ inch by 7¼ inch white paper (odd size). The best way to describe the weight and texture of this unique paper is to say that it was like very then and light cardstock that had a slight texture to it. Point being, I did many drawings on this type of paper when I was 7, 8, 9, 10 (I am guessing). With that, I present the next selection of drawings, which were all done on this type of paper. I cannot remember if the subject matter of this particular art was from my own imagination or if it was from something I saw in a book or on TV. If you happen to recognize anything, please let me know.

Rain. Rain. Rain.

Another clown! And, this one does not even look like Bozo. At the time, I guess to me, every clown could be called Bozo.

These are Dalmatians barking at a huge, weird bird. . . I do not know. . . I just do not know.

Moving forward just a few years, I think that this last piece (color pencil on blank white paper) is funny. You see, I really liked Rescue Rangers when it first began airing, and I decided to come up with my small creature team of helpers. As you will see, there is more than just a passing resemblance to the real Rescue Rangers:

So, for this Rescue Squad, I basically replaced Monterey Jack with a squirrel named Corn Nut, who apparently loves to dress very patriotically! Chip was replaced by a mouse named Oscar, who may look vaguely familiar. I based him off the old Chuck E. Cheese. Now, Wood Chip. . . he basically is Dale with a different name. I was not very creative with that one. Buzz Bomber is the counterpart for Zipper. And, Monica is based on Gadget, though I do not remember if my version was gadgety or not. I even created some vehicles for them, similar to what the Rescue Rangers had, of course. I was originally thinking about calling my team The Mouse Police, ha, ha!

With that, it is best to leave the childhood art gallery now. I hope that you were able to remember some of your own art projects. I think that I would enjoy seeing some of your own childhood work, Readers, if it is still lying dormant somewhere.

I still drew as I got older, and I am a decent doodler of cartoony figures now, but my love shifted to writing and language. However, I still like some art and the chance to be creative. These days, when I have time and want to make some art, I mostly enjoy paper craft--origami and paper engineering (making pop-ups). But, enough about me.

Thank you for reading.

God bless,
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