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Monday, May 26, 2008

My Kid Could Paint That

We rented this from Netflix the other night. It's a documentary about a 4-year-old girl from Binghamton, NY who either is or isn't a child prodigy abstract expressionist painter. Here is the full story.

My opinion? Marla painted the paintings, but was heavily coached. I noticed that Marla made her paintings over a period of time. She would paint one layer, let it dry, and resume painting on a different day. In my experience, this is not how a 4-year-old naturally paints. The 4-year-olds I know want to finish everything in a single sitting. They add layer upon layer while the paint is still wet, and end up with one big pool of greenish-brown mud. I would guess that at a minimum, Marla's father decided exactly when to take the canvas away to let it dry and keep the colors distinct.

I admit it is sometimes tempting to intervene with a child's artwork. My own kids have come home from school at times with projects that they couldn't possibly have drawn themselves. However, conscious or not, if Marla's father was telling her which colors to use, which tools to use, and when to start and stop painting, in the end it isn't really Marla's painting. At least not entirely.

Here are some decidedly 4-year-old drawings that my own 4-year-olds drew. The first is a vampire that Megan drew last summer. The vampire is holding a glass of blood. The second is a drawing that Devon made of a man stealing eggs at Easter. I love them both.

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