A week or so ago, Robert Sharp wrote to me asking me about the quality in children’s drawings that seems impossible to fake. What I wrote back was: It seems to me that children, when they are drawing, are pushing the very edge of their abilities, while adults, when trying to mimic children’s drawings, are holding back somehow.
Lynda Barry had a much more interesting take during her interview on Debbie Millman’s Design Matters podcast. She says it has to do with line, gesture, and the link between drawing and seeing and thinking:
A kid’s drawing isn’t line…. A kid’s drawing is gesture. It’s natural human movement. Another place we see that is in the sciences. If you watch a scientist… watch how they move their hands on the whiteboard when they’re thinking? It’s astonishing… the parallels between how their hands look and how their drawings look and four-year-olds. It’s amazing.
It would make the physicists just cry to show that it looks just like four-year-olds, but the thing that I’ve come to realize is: What if that’s what a line looks like, not just when you’re getting an idea, but that the line itself is giving you an idea. That’s the part people don’t remember or suspect about drawing: That drawing can go, not just from your head to the page, but definitely from the page up your hand and into your head. That’s the kind of drawing that kids are doing. They’re drawing and then seeing what it is that they’re drawing.
(This reminds me of how my son Jules, even now, will add a few lines, then sit back, admire what he’s done, pump his fists in excitement, and then keep adding lines.)
Some chalkboards from my files (though only one scientist):
Top to bottom: Feynman, Beuys, Albers, Beuys, Beuys, Beuys, Basquiat, Haring.