Jon Klassen (author of the fantastic Hat trilogy) shares this quote with people who ask him how to get kids writing and drawing more.
He explained in a tweet thread:
i take “the dictation of the materials” to mean that there are things that certain forms or tools “like” to do more than other things. certain kinds of mediums make for certain kinds of drawings, a picture book format makes for certain kinds of stories (loosely speaking).
being able to analyze what the materials WANT to do is such a huge part making anything & seems like rather than getting kids to specifically write something or draw something, getting them to think about that is way more broadly useful.
because you end up applying it yourself. you are a material with strengths and weaknesses. being able to look at what you’re working with objectively and decide what to make based on that is such a huge part of this job, at least it has been for me.
(relating to getting kids writing/drawing, materials give parameters. like giving them only a black marker means they might start thinking about drawings that only need that – what picture does that marker WANT to make? now they are solving a problem instead of “draw something!”)
(where that applies to writing, for me, was the absence of narration. i don’t know what to do with it, so i’m left with dialogue. what do stories with visuals and only dialogue WANT to do? they want to be about lying a lot, apparently.)
I’ve written a lot more about Albers and her idea of materials dictating the work in my previous post, “Materials, man.” (For more on materials and kids making stuff, check out “On Chuck Jones, Parenting, and Art Supplies.”)