I have mixed feelings about children's turkey hand drawings. Part of me says that they are silly, lazy caricatures that kids learn to do in school. And part of me realizes that Maia (who drew the right-hand turkey, while her friend Marlise drew the one on the left) likes having a crutch and tracing her hand provides an easy one.
Many parents and teachers think handprints are cute and child-like (I think so myself at times) and handprint art is all around us. I've seen handprint turkeys, leaves, butterflies, spiders, fish, and Christmas trees—almost exclusively in adult-initiated art projects. It's an easy way to help a young abstract artist to make "something real." And the practice continues even after many children start exploring realism in their art.
I'd much rather have Maia learning to draw a turkey freehand rather than tracing her hand or making a handprint then adding feet, wattles, and beaks. But I haven't taught her how to draw a turkey. And we don't have any live turkeys around us (save the occasional one we see on country drives that don't look anything like a hand) for her to be inspired by. Instead she learns from her peers and at school to trace her hand in order to make a turkey.
She likes this because:
- Her peers are drawing turkeys this way.
- It gives her a defined way to draw the turkey.
- Her turkeys always turn out (to her satisfaction).
Maia is at the stage where she wants her drawings to look like what they are supposed to look like and yet her drawing skills are not up to the task yet of matching either the image in her head or the object in front of her. And when they don't, as is often the case these days, she can get very frustrated. I'm not really sure what to do about this. Sometimes I'm able to talk her out of her frustration and tears (everyone's drawings are different, there are so many ways to draw a horse, etc) but not always. She also wants her drawings to look like her friends' drawings, which is frustrating for me (although not her).
Many of the images she draws over and over again—butterflies, flowers, hearts, rainbows, and birds—are images that she feels she has mastered. She is less likely to draw something (even if she wants to) if she doesn't feel confident about how it will turn out.
On the other hand, here is a turkey drawing that Maia and another friend of hers did together recently that feels much more authentic to me. Why? It's more unique and doesn't use the popular crutch of the hand tracing.
How about you? What do you think about handprint art or other crutches used in childhood art? (And if you have any advice for me regarding Maia's frustration with her drawing skills, I could use it.)