The AwkEng is an Art Sleuth

Hi all,

Today's post is about art and a proud dad moment. I do have a short list of posts I want to write, including one on Voltmeter Clock BOM scrubbing, a new book report, and a post about personal assistants, and maybe a post about mental models for project management, but sometimes, being a dad comes first.

Background on Little Kid Art Feedback

We're going on a slight tangent here, so bear with me. It'll make sense in a minute.

One of the things I've learned about giving feedback, and doubly so for children's art, is that when you make your comments specific, it shows more sincerity, and that you're not bullshitting.

The portion on art feedback is straight out of How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, but adults are the same in many ways, and there are very common themes in One Minute Manager, Radical Candor, and also, a hostage negotiation book, Never Split the Difference (because talking to small children is (un?)surprisingly similar to hostage negotiation).

An Example Critique

So when my 3 year old daughter comes home with a piece of art, I love giving it my full review.

"Let's take a look at what you made, Beanie-boo. Oh... I see you're experimenting with an interplay of color, dispersed across the page, with a very pointillist style. You're mixing short strokes and small splashes, then contrasting them with slightly longer, curvilinear forms that loop between the other marks. As always, the use of white space leaves the piece airy and light, and the placement of the different marks is balanced throughout the page. Look how your use of different colors draws the eye around the work. This is a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing it with me."

A Bold New Direction

This past week, my daughter brought home the latest work from pre-school, and once again, I gave it my full attention.

"Wow, Beanie-boo, you've gone in a bold new direction here. Instead of your usual, short, pointillist marks, you've gone for broad, sweeping strokes that flow across the page with a powerful energy. You've completely filled the page with color, and your normal sense of airiness is gone, replaced with a newfound intensity, almost as if you're representing something heavy and solid. This is an interesting new style for you. Thank you for showing me."

The Mystery Revealed

At this point, my wife glances over at the artwork, and sees a few tiny letters in pen, written in the corner. The pre-school teachers typically write the student's name on the child's art for them. This one didn't belong to my daughter. She had a playdate after school with a friend, and this piece belonged to her classmate.

Art Sleuth

And that was my proud dad moment. I know my daughter's artwork and I know her style.

best regards!
Sam Feller
aka THE Awkward Engineer

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