By Joseph Dixon
After giving Noah his drawing tablet and allowing him to freely create images, I’ve come to question the meaning behind his works. Are these representational pieces that, because of his lack of language, can’t be described or explained by him? Can they be deliberate abstract expressions with purposeful intentions of depicting his thoughts and emotions at the time. For me, to begin answering these questions I needed to start with Dr. Viktor Lowenfeld’s published work “Creative and Mental Growth” which argues that there are six clearly defined stages of artistic development and that these stages can be witnessed in the artworks of children. Now, his work doesn’t focus on children on the autistic spectrum but I am hoping to build on an understanding of what, why and how Noah and other children with special needs create art by using his literature as a baseline.
When I witness Noah working or viewing work he’s created, I’m reminded of Lowenfeld’s first stage artistic development which is the Scribble Stage. According to the author, the Scribble stage is made up of four sub-stages. (a) Disordered - uncontrolled markings that could be bold or light depending upon the personality of the child. At this age the child has little or no control over motor activity. (b) Longitudinal - controlled repetitions of motions. Demonstrates visually an awareness and enjoyment of kinesthetic movements.
(c) Circular - further exploring of controlled motions demonstrating the ability to do more complex forms. (d) Naming - the child tells stories about the scribble. There is a change from a kinesthetic thinking in terms of motion to imaginative thinking in terms of pictures. This is one of the great occasions in the life of a human. It is the development of the ability to visualize in pictures. http://www.d.umn.edu/artedu/Lowenf.html
When Noah is at work, he displays the Longitudinal sub-stage. His movement is controlled and repetitive with clear intentions of color choices and placement on the paper. There is also clear enthusiasm when he is engaged in the creative process. With all that said, I still feel more research is needed. I’m hoping to come across a comparative study that focuses strictly on art created by children on the spectrum. But for now, I am sure I have a better understanding of what, why and how Noah creates and hopefully initiated an appreciation for the art and creative process of children on the autistic spectrum.