The Shape of Things

One of the most interesting things about working with young children is getting the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. Everything is fresh and exciting. Their understanding of the world is constantly evolving,
informed by new explorations and the stimuli gathered from these experiences. Informational pieces are collected, sorted and put together to create context and meaning, which in turn are used to stimulate new questions and ideas. Early childhood teachers are privileged to witness the development of critical and inquisitive minds and engage with children in their quest for knowledge.
 
In the Red Room, one of ways we encourage children to share their inner world is through visual art. Making art, looking at art and talking about it, helps children develop their visual vocabulary and practice the art of
seeing. Asking the question, “What do you see?” helps children engage more viscerally with artwork. It inspires their imagination, leading to conversation and new conceptual understanding. At 2 and 3 years of age, children are experimenting a variety of mark making techniques. Some are naturally beginning to experiment with shape
making.
 
The Red Room’s study of the artist Matisse’s cut-out murals has challenged to the children to try making their own shapes, defined as any line that connects and closes, leaving space in the middle. Working one-on-one with a teacher, each of the children made a practice drawing or “blueprint” before attempting to make their own personal shape on Bristol paper painted with gouache.
 
After completion, we had a special Circle Time. We discussed how Matisse had seen birds and undersea
creatures in his shapes and asked the children what they saw when they looked at their own work.
These are some of their ideas looking at the blueprints:
 

charlotte blueprint1 scoop
Charlotte

George: A mouse, a crab, a mouse in bed
Charlotte: A scoop, yogurt. Elephant
George: A dinosaur
 

solomon blueprint 1 snowman
Solomon

Enzo: I see a circle
Solomon: A circle, a line
Max: A quarter of a circle
George: A snowman
Isaac: Under the car there is a train
 
Then we did a teacher demonstration, cutting out some of the finished pieces. Matisse sometimes called his process, “drawing with scissors.” After tracing the children’s lines with the scissor, the drawn shape was separated from the surrounding frame and we noted how more shapes now existed. The inside and the part which had been removed were referred to as “Negative” and “Positive” space. Even the frame itself had became another shape. Turning the shapes around continued to create new perspectives and lent itself to different visual interpretations.
We again asked the children: “What do you see?”
 

Charlotte's "Positive" Cut-out
Charlotte’s “Positive” Cut-out

Isaac: A house
Charlotte: House, Caterpillar
Max: A dog
 

Evan C's "Negative" Cut-out
Evan C’s “Negative” Cut-out

Max: I see a cat, blue dot and yellow
Inez: Dot, yellow, orange, black
Enzo: I see yellow
Olivier: Cat
George: That looks like a ghost
Charlotte: Airplane
Sam: Baby Beluga
Enzo: Bunny
George: A walrus
 
What a wonderful journey those simple abstract shapes allowed us to take, giving us a special passport to glimpse the rich wide tapestry of our children’s inner world, full of knowledge and imagination.

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