International Journal of Art & Design Education

How Children use Drawing

Volume 10.1   1991



The idea that children pass through a number of 'stages' in their drawing development has a long and distinguished history. From Sully's Studies in Childhood(1895)to Lowenfeld's Creative and Mental Growth(1947) and more recently Maurice Barrett's notion of 'developmental differentiations', the idea that children's movement from 'simple' to 'complex' is the journey from non-representational 'scribbling' to accurate representation through the convention of linear perspective is implicit. This paper challenges such an orthodoxy claiming the emphasis on 'stages' theory in the teaching of drawing has the narrowing effect of privileging the depiction of the three-dimensional world using linear perspective. It asks the question; Can we think of the process of drawing development in a way which does not assume such a predictable hierarchical progression? Drawing parallels with Wittgensteinian linguistics it proposes a functional interpretation whereby children actually make use of 'drawing discourses' to represent aspects of their experience.