The other day I was washing the dishes whilst having a conversation with two of the children, Violet and Perry. We chatted about many things, and eventually our conversation led to their families. I suggested they might like to do a painting for their families, and Violet informed me she had already done so. “Would you like to make a painting for Preschool House then? You see these frames here? We could put your paintings in there when they dry” I offered. Violet and Perry smiled wide and turned around to the easel to begin painting.
It was interesting to watch them. Both Violet and Perry are very capable artists who regularly paint, draw and sculpt. Today, however, watching them paint, I felt there was something different in their focus, some deeper level of attentiveness. I regularly noticed them taking the time to step back and look at their work, perhaps considering where to make the next mark or what colour to add. I wondered if it was the offer to frame their work that had made a difference to their focus, or if it was my focus that had changed; was I watching them in a different way, knowing that their work would be displayed on the wall?
We hung the paintings up to dry once they were finished. When it was time to go home, Perry checked his work and said; “It’s dry now! You can put it in the frame!” His mum looked at me questioningly, and I explained that I had invited Perry to display his work in the frames. “Wow, that’s wonderful!” she enthused and Perry grinned.
When it was time for Violet to leave, she pulled her mum over to the drying stand and pointed out her work; “I’m taking this one home and this one is going in the frames” she said, motioning to the frames on the wall.
The next day when Perry and Violet arrived, their paintings were framed as promised. The very first thing both children did was to bring over their respective parents and share their work. “That’s my work, in the bottom frame, and that’s Perry’s in the top one” Violet explained. Perry also took the time to point out his work to his friends.
The simple act of framing the child’s work had turned their art from something to be completed and put in the locker to something to be shared with families and friends in a different and more meaningful way. Perry and Violet, despite not having a particularly strong friendship in this environment, now know each others’ names and share these with the significant people in their lives.
I can’t be certain that knowing their work would be framed made a difference to the way Perry and Violet painted, but I feel like perhaps it did. They worked with more focus and consideration, took more time, and filled the entire page. They also talked to each other and took the time to observed each others work and each other at work, which is important when you consider that they don’t at this stage have an established friendship.
When I think about the reasons I frame children’s art, I don’t usually think about building friendships between children. I tend mostly to think about respect – respect for the child, respect for the process, respect for the work and respect for the aesthetics of the environment. And I would argue that these are all good reasons on their own to frame art. But that’s the thing about working in early childhood education; there is always something new to learn.