What to Expect

Kindergartn:

Early Explorations

At first, “realistic” colors (blue sky, green grass, yellow sun) are not important – children often draw with their favorite color, or whatever color is closest at hand.

Occasionally, unrelated images may “float” around the page. This will stop as children become more aware of the world around them, and the images in their artwork will become more coherent.

Children will often focus on one important feature, making this bigger or more detailed than any other part of their art.

Towards the end of Kindergarten, most children have developed a very specific way of drawing common images (people, trees, houses, cars). For most children, these images will continue to look the same, every time, in any picture, over the next few years.

The “baselines” (green grass across the bottom, blue sky at the top) generally show up by the end of Kindergarten in a child’s artwork. This also signifies the beginning of “realistic” (and sometimes stereotypical) colors being used more often.

In a choice-based art room, many students will be in an “Exploratory Stage” this year. Children want to test out materials that may be new to them. This means drawings may sometimes be nothing more than test marks or scribbles. Paintings might only be simple shapes or areas of color. (Mixing and creating new colors is exciting – even if it results in “mud” by the time they are finished!) Collage projects may be flooded with glue – or, students may not want to glue at all – sometimes just cutting the paper into shapes is enough. While it might not seem like much yet, these early explorations are all important first steps on the road to becoming a better Artist!

First Graders:

Energetic Artists

By First Grade, most children have begun to show “baselines” (ground and sky) in their art, and often “realistic” (stereotypical/generic) colors are being used. However, size and proportion are usually not considered yet. Generally, the more important an object is to a child, the larger it is shown in the picture. Storytelling through art is often very important at this age. Children may show many things happening at once in a picture. Multiple “mini-drawings” shown in sequence on a page may represent the passage of time. Sometime objects may be drawn “x-ray” style or cut-away, to show what is happening inside.

At this age, most children can only focus on one area or detail at a time. You may occasionally notice that your child has very carefully filled only one small area of a page, or drawn an object that may seem to be “missing” parts. This is normal, and children will shortly outgrow this stage.

In a choice-based art room, many students will pass through the “Energetic” or “Active” Stage this year. Because students are familiar and comfortable with the materials and the art room, they may attack their art more energetically then when they were in Kindergarten. Also as more Choices and Centers are introduced this year, students will want to try a little bit of everything, all at once. It is not uncommon for children to want to take home something every art class, finished or not. Drawings may often seem incomplete. Paintings will look muddy from over-mixing colors. Clay projects may often be flattened out, or poked full of holes. Collage shapes may be glued at random, sometimes completely covering up other shapes. While all of this may seem like a regression to the work done in Kindergarten, it really is a step forward, showing the students are comfortable with taking risks and trying new things. Many will progress out of this stage quickly and soon move on to more meaningful art!

Second Graders:

Our Art is Shaping Up! Children at this age are becoming more social, and their artwork begins to reflect this. There will be a lot less “I/Me/My” in their art, and a lot more “Us/We” – group images of family and friends. Some children also begin working cooperatively on group projects with a friend.

By the end of second grade, most children are wanting to show a more realistic likeness in their artwork. There is a much bigger concern for getting things just the right color, and more and more details are being noticed and added to images.

Simple “baselines” (sky and ground) may start to disappear around this age, as children become more aware of background objects (hills or mountains in outdoor scenes; furniture, windows, or doors in indoor scenes).

An awareness of size and proportion begins to develop often times at this age. However, children may not realize something is “too big” or “too small” until after the picture is complete. While before the most important object was always the biggest, many children now understand that size can have other meanings: something large can appear to be close, while something drawn smaller may appear to be further away. Now that children are older, their ideas for their artwork are generally “bigger”. They begin to realize that not every art project can be finished in one class period, so projects will be left to work on for longer and longer periods of time.

In a choice-based art room, many students are going through the “Shape Stage” this year, as fine motor skills continue to improve. For Drawing, more recognizable shapes and detailed objects will emerge. For painting, “muddiness” will disappear, and large shapes or areas of color (many made by the students) will be placed on the paper. For Clay, coils and balls will be combined in sculptures (and more objects may be glazed before taking them home). For Collage, shapes are more carefully placed, more often next to each other then on top of each other.

Third Graders:

Designer Artists By third grade, more and more children (especially those who draw often) are becoming more concerned with making their artwork look “real”. Photos, drawing books, and drawing models are often referenced. Techniques like blending colors, creating shadows, and adding texture to objects begin to be explored. Some children may still have simple “baselines” (ground at bottom, sky at top), but these will tend to become more advanced throughout the year. Background details in a scene will appear more often as children become more aware of the “empty space” around their main image.

The idea of “space” on a page will begin to develop. Children at this stage usually have an awareness that larger images in a picture appear closer to the viewer, and smaller objects seem to be further away. More advanced perspective techniques may begin to show in artwork, including overlapping images and early attempts at 3D drawing.

Socializing is becoming more and more important. Peer interests and opinions are evident in artwork choices. Children will very often cooperate with a friend on a project, or choose a Center or project based on what is popular with classmates.

Now that children are older, and have developed better vocabulary and writing skills, art as a form of communication is no longer quite as important as it was when they were younger. For many, art is becoming less about the process, and more about the product. Many children start wanting their art to have a certain “look”, and they are beginning to understand that the tools and colors they choose, and the marks that they make all have an effect on the final image being created. Long term projects that may take multiple class periods to finish are not uncommon.

In a choice-based art room, many students will have entered the “Design Stage” in their artwork this year. From their growing awareness of texture and detail comes a desire to embellish their work with decorative line designs, and shape or color patterns. Student’s drawings and sculptures will become more balanced, and symmetry in their works will purposeful. Paintings will more often show patterns, and distinct shapes, images, lines, and colors will be more carefully rendered. Balls and coils in clay projects will be used more often, and sculptures or pottery will often be more highly decorated. Collage compositions will be more ordered and balanced, showing repeated colors, lines, and shapes.

Fourth Graders:

Emerging Artists Up until now, most young artists have been relying on a set image or symbol in their mind (developed back in Kindergarten or 1st Grade) as a drawing reference, along with simple “baselines” to show space on a page. Generally, by the end of fourth grade, this is no longer enough for most children. The majority want to draw realistically, and as a result, become very aware of their drawing ability and highly critical of their own work.

This is often the age when children go through an “art crisis”, believing that they cannot draw, and are therefore untalented in art. Learning to “see” an object, using visual references (photos, books, or objects) while they work, and learning techniques like perspective drawing or shading, can help children move past this “crisis” stage.

Even though, to most children at this age, “drawing ability” = “art ability” in their minds, not every artist will find drawing to be as crucial. For a few artists at this age, artwork is more about emotions and personal connections, not realism. The work of these young artists will be more symbolic in nature, with color being used to show an emotion, and messages of personal meaning become the focus of the work.

At this stage in their artistic development, some children may begin to struggle for ideas. When they were younger, much of the excitement in art came from discovering something new – mixing a new color of paint or testing out a new material. At this earlier stage in their development, art was more about the process. As they approach middle school, the process of making artwork has become second-hand. Much of what they have used is now familiar to them, and the materials themselves no longer offer the same excitement. Now, artwork is now more about product, and these young artists want their artwork to be “grown-up”. Their old ideas may feel clichéd or babyish, and many can feel very self-conscious about what they choose to create. Those who do struggle for ideas will often resort to “safe” images – hearts, rainbows, decorating their own name, etc. Looking at a variety of artwork, both at school and at home (books, the internet, museums) can help off inspiration.

In a choice-based art room, most Fourth Graders will be in the “Representational Stage” this year. Many students will be focused on depicting the world around them in a realistic, “adult” way. For the artist concerned with drawing, you may notice that some of the whimsy and playfulness has left the work. In an attempt at the realism most are seeking, many drawings can appear rigid and formal. For the painters, the greater ability to control the brush and mix desired colors will greatly enhance their work. More scenes from everyday life may begin appearing, and for some, paintings will be more of an abstract, emotional outlet, portraying certain feelings or moods. For the clay artists, functional pottery will be more carefully rendered, and sculptural objects will be more detailed and recognizable. Collage artists will be better able to create desired shapes and objects, and place them on the page in a way that better represents a scene or environment.

Fifth Graders:

Emerging Artists Up until now, most young artists have been relying on a set image or symbol in their mind (developed back in Kindergarten or 1st Grade) as a drawing reference, along with simple “baselines” to show space on a page. Generally, by the end of fourth grade, this is no longer enough for most children. The majority want to draw realistically, and as a result, become very aware of their drawing ability and highly critical of their own work. This is often the age when children go through an “art crisis”, believing that they cannot draw, and are therefore untalented in art. Learning to “see” an object, using visual references (photos, books, or objects) while they work, and learning techniques like perspective drawing or shading, can help children move past this “crisis” stage.

Even though, to most children at this age, “drawing ability” = “art ability” in their minds, not every artist will find drawing to be as crucial. For a few artists at this age, artwork is more about emotions and personal connections, not realism. The work of these young artists will be more symbolic in nature, with color being used to show an emotion, and messages of personal meaning become the focus of the work.

At this stage in their artistic development, some children may begin to struggle for ideas. When they were younger, much of the excitement in art came from discovering something new – mixing a new color of paint or testing out a new material. At this earlier stage in their development, art was more about the process. As they approach middle school, the process of making artwork has become second-hand. Much of what they have used is now familiar to them, and the materials themselves no longer offer the same excitement. Now, artwork is now more about product, and these young artists want their artwork to be “grown-up”. Their old ideas may feel clichéd or babyish, and many can feel very self-conscious about what they choose to create. Those who do struggle for ideas will often resort to “safe” images – hearts, rainbows, decorating their own name, etc. Looking at a variety of artwork, both at school and at home (books, the internet, museums) can help off inspiration.

In a choice-based art room, most Fifth Graders will be in the “Representational Stage” this year. Many students will be focused on depicting the world around them in a realistic, “adult” way. For the artist concerned with drawing, you may notice that some of the whimsy and playfulness has left the work. In an attempt at the realism most are seeking, many drawings can appear rigid and formal. For the painters, the greater ability to control the brush and mix desired colors will greatly enhance their work. More scenes from everyday life may begin appearing, and for some, paintings will be more of an abstract, emotional outlet, portraying certain feelings or moods. For the clay artists, functional pottery will be more carefully rendered, and sculptural objects will be more detailed and recognizable. Collage artists will be better able to create desired shapes and objects, and place them on the page in a way that better represents a scene or environment.