It’s More About…

Installation view, Brian Belott’s Dr. Kid President Jr. at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. (Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.)

…She went around the globe collecting kids’ art, so a lot of the art in this show is international. We have art here from Switzerland, from India, from Egypt, from Tibet. What she found was that no matter where finger painting went on across the globe, kids were essentially drawing the same stuff. In Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell compared creation myths, showing the common thread through seemingly disparate cultures. Rhoda was finding the same thing, but in children’s scribbles. She was going into this nexus of gobbledygook and nonsense, with very little support, and she winds up finding that within scribbles are repeating shapes, like the mandala or the Greek cross. What she’s also seeing bubbling up from this is the beginning of all language – the alphabet.

NR:But it’s a graphic language, as opposed to an alphabetic one, so it exists apart from a specific language or nation?

BB: Absolutely. There are certain things the body loves to do, like making a cross, or an X, or a loop-de-loop. These actions are born in the time of early childhood. What’s wild, too, about this practice is that, for the kids, it’s akin to running around on the playground, because kids are only half of the time thinking deeply about what they’re doing. It’s more about motor action and covering a surface.

That’s part of an interview with artist Brian Belott about his latest exhibition, which focuses on the art of children. I was quite struck by the last sentence in the quote above: “It’s more about motor action and covering a surface.” That’s exactly what I’m doing with the Tree Quilt. My fingers go to work, while my mind wanders afar. I surface now and then, to see what my fingers have been doing, then wander off again. I’ve noticed during the time I’ve worked on the tree quilt, that anytime I’m actually focused on it, and thinking about it, I just can’t get anything to work, at all. I end up having to tuck it away. When I’m not paying attention, but my body is singing with energy, and there are a million other things to occupy my mind, the shapes and colours which form are strange, happily organic, and very pleasing to me. Maybe that’s why I’m stretching out the work time on it so much – not just that I have to walk away when I’m in ‘adult’ mode, but at its core, it’s a childish scribble, one which makes me quite happy.

The full interview is at Hyperallergic.


  1. rq says

    This is extremely interesting, given I’ve always been fascinated by (my) kids’ lack of compositional feel in their younger photos. If there’s an empty space, it must be filled, and most pictures include the element of time -- you have the initial characters and elements, which then engage in various activities (or are passive recipients of actions by other) as the page is filled. The final step often is a series of explosions that cover everything in layers and layers of (sometimes mono-)chromatic swirls. It’s quite fascinating to see that it’s not about creating a pleasing composition, but completing a very temporally linear (though I have doubts about this, too) random idea on a confined, 2D space. I could share some of these, because the effect can be quite intense (and confusing! :)).

  2. says

    I have sidewalk chalk! Fun stuff.


    If there’s an empty space, it must be filled, and most pictures include the element of time

    Generally speaking, negative space is something most people have to learn the value of. I was an odd kid, there was a lot of negative space in my larger drawings. I do remember going berserk on the every space must be filled though, too. I also remember including the element of time quite often. One of my large drawings was a big, empty box (television) with antennae, and birds flying over. I still don’t have the slightest fucking idea of what that was about.

  3. says

    Uh, what about it? Oh, my painting? Yeah, sure, I was psychic. At the time, I was four, it was important enough for me to write “birds flying over television set” at the bottom. I’m sure I thought I had some sort of profound insight.

  4. says


    The final step often is a series of explosions that cover everything in layers and layers of (sometimes mono-)chromatic swirls.

    Thinking about it, I wonder how much of that is sensory overload. When you’re a sproglet, you’re taking on a tremendous amount of knowledge, every waking second. Everything is wondrous, and there’s this constant categorization going on, so when it comes time to draw, I think there’s a slightly controlled explosion going on, reflecting the energy of both mind and body.

  5. says

    I usually drew dinosaurs, cats, and man-eating plants. (I was five when the Rick Moranis version of Little Shop of Horrors came out, and I loved it.)

  6. says

    Oh, and sharks. I had devised a formula for drawing sharks. I even had an idea to charge other kids a fee for teaching them how to draw sharks. My shark-drawing school never made any money, though.

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