Is children’s art “Art”?

December 28th, 2006

It’s easy to say, “all children are artists,” or “everyone is born an artist.” But let’s be serious: how old do you have to be before people take you seriously as an artist?

If you are recognized as an artist as an adult, does your “early work” then become art as well? What if your “early work” was not so good? What if (as in the case of my sister Nina) only your “early work” was good?

Does an artist need to be older than ten to make real art? Is children’s art “Art”?

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related post: Edward Winkleman, What Is an “Emerging Artist”?

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18 Responses to “Is children’s art “Art”?”

  1. Derek Andrews Says:

    I would suggest that it depends on who is doing the ‘recognizing’.

    If it is a gallery, then it probably won’t be seen as art, unless of course they can see real potential for the child’s artistic ability. It may then be worth making a small investment, encouraging and nurturing that child’s talent, in the hope that in several decades time those works may be worth a small fortune. A huge risk, but if the child is discouraged by early rejection, it could be a huge loss to the art world.

    In a similar vane, the child’s teacher should build on any early signs of creativity, talent and skill, however humble or mediocre. I wonder how many kids have decided that they can’t draw or paint after their first attempt, simply because someone used the wrong words or even body language?

    But what this topic really boils down to is ‘what is art’? If you subscribe to the notion that it can be anything creative that comes from within, then perhaps children have the best chance of creating art without preconceived notions of what art is or should be. Maybe we could learn a lot from them?

  2. Steve Says:

    If you can’t define art, how can you define children’s art? In my view, being an artist is about what you do; to be called an artist is to have some undefined length of history of doing something people are willing to call art. Age has little to do with it. Maybe one can be born with various predispositions conducive to becoming an artist, but, again in my view, one can’t be born an artist.

  3. June Says:

    Interesting topic — here’s an anecdotal comment.

    My granddaughter has some artistic leanings and has gone always to the art-magnet schools here in Portland.

    She is now a sophomore in high school and says that she loves her art teacher because for the first time, she is being taught how to use watercolor and paint representationally. She feels that for the first 11 years of her art education (starting in kindergarten), she was urged to be creative, but was not given the teaching to use the tools presented to her. She resents it that art was not “taught” her, but merely presented to her.

    I grant you she’s a rebel, and if she had been classically taught, she would probably now be screaming to escape the conventions.

    My point would be, I suppose, that the biggest difference between a child who draws out of joy and an artist is “time in the water” and sentient choices — making conscious decisions based on experience of previous decisions. Time and thought, both of which are difficult to have acquired when you are five years old. So my granddaughter is achieving the thinking mind to accompany her advanced age.

  4. Bob Martin Says:

    Karl, this is a difficult question. I agree with Steve in that it seems to depend on who is making the declaration “This is art” or “This is an artist”. Overtime the world seems to come some agreement. The key is over some time. If the work, song, poem, painting still stirs something in its audience, “it just might be art” otherwise it will take up space next to men’s platform shoes, cars with ten tail-fins, and paintings of Elvis on Black velvet.

  5. Arthur Whitman Says:

    It depends on what you mean by an artist. Children aren’t artists in the sense that we usually use the term: professionals (or perhaps extremely dedicated amateurs) who have made art a central focus of their lives. Art for kids seems to be a fairly direct extension of play and other more or less unselfconscious creative activities. So they are artists in a different sense, although there is no doubt some slippage.

    Visual art made by children is interesting in its own right but it rarely if ever offers the complexity and sophistication provided by good museum art. Some modern artists–for example, Picasso, Klee, Dubuffet–have been influenced by the children’s art. But good work done in this vein is better than any actual children’s art that I’ve seen.

    I think its important to distinguish work made by teenagers from work made by younger children.

  6. David Says:

    how old do you have to be before people take you seriously as an artist?

    From what I’ve heard of recent trends in the art world, you have to be under 30.

  7. Karl Ziper Says:


    I think it is good to set high standards. At the same time, comparing children’s art in general to the work of specific masters like Klee might be daunting. If every adult felt that they had to match or top Picasso, how many would want to paint? Fortunately, I don’t think children would get discouraged. You gave me a good idea though. I’m going to start discussing some modern art with Fran, without mentioning the age of the artists. I’m curious what she will think of Picasso.

  8. Karl Zipser Says:


    Your comment #6 above got held by the spam filter (why, I don’t know).

    As for the comment itself, let’s hope you’re wrong!

  9. David Says:

    Karl, I hope I’m wrong too. But I don’t think so. Read some of the posts and comments on Ed Winkleman’s site sometime, and you’ll hear story after story about this. Art collecting has turned into speculation in a way that has totally changed the business.

  10. Rex Crockett Says:

    From what I’ve heard of recent trends in the art world, you have to be under 30.

    Well, I read that whole bit on Winkleman’s site. First, his commenters really need to get out more. The New York “emerging artist” scene does not represent anything but a bunch of poofs promoting their latest boy toys.

    The average age of artists in the Santa Fe Taos area (which out sells the New York gallery scene) is over 50. This holds true in the Mendocino area, Monterrey Carmel, Miami, Seattle…

    Wake up. Art is an old person’s game. Always has been. Those kids in the big city are getting played and discarded.

  11. David Says:

    Okay, I’m moving to Taos.

    Can’t say I think much of the artwork I see in Carmel. Though we were just up there a few days ago, and if you ignore the galleries it’s a wonderful town :)

    If you’re ever there, I highly recommend staying at the Carmel Mission Ranch (Clint Eastwood’s place). Splurge and get a room looking out over the meadow. It’s worth it.

  12. David Says:

    PS – Rex, when you say that Santa Fe Taos outsells NY, what do you mean by that? Are you really saying there’s more work sold there than in NYC?

  13. Rex Crockett Says:

    Yes. More by far. I heard that from one gallery owner, and then I started asking others. We’re talking actual dollars spent on art, but that does not count the New York auction houses, just the galleries.

    New York is a has been. It happened over thirty years ago. it’s just that there are a bunch of old farts who write the big city reviews, and they create, intentionally, false impressions because that’s where their bread is buttered.

  14. Steve Durbin Says:

    I thought nothing increased prices like being dead. By that logic, if an artist’s work is selling at all, you’re better off buying the work of some geezer about to kick the bucket.

  15. Arthur Whitman Says:

    You can’t measure the value of an art scene just in terms of the market size-you just can’t. Perhaps NYC really “is a a has been”. But I’d still take it any day over Sante Fe or probably anywhere else, thanks. And what exactly is the false impression thats being created. I don’t see people pretending that things are perfect. Sure, young people get exploited economically by old people. That happens everywhere people are making money.

  16. Rex Crockett Says:


    If you follow prices closely, you’ll see that when artist kicks, there’s an immediate spike in the price followed by a crash to a level about ten percent more that when he or she was alive. The prices then continue to increase at just about the same rate as when the artist was alive.

    What does that tell you? It tells you that because people believe that dead artist’s work is more valuable, they buy. But it’s a sellers market, NOT a buyers market.

    Suckers. The final vengeance of the artist.

  17. David Says:

    As soon as I die, I’m going to start selling into the spike. Maybe I’ll make enough to start my next life off w/ some cash. Of course if I come back as a dog I won’t need much.

  18. Rex Crockett Says:

    You can’t measure the value of an art scene just in terms of the market size– you just can’t.

    True, Arthur. One has to look at influence on other artists and art in general. So my comment stands.

    I know you love New York, Arthur. Good. I don’t respect people who are unfaithful or disloyal to their roots. If I lived there, I would be thinking, “Hmm. How can we restore the dream?”

    But reading the rags out of The City, I’m always struck by their smug insularity and disconnection from the rest of the world.