But what about a small child? Asked to truly look at themselves for the first time? What do they see?
‘My eyes are blue…and there are small black dots in them…what are those dots Mummy?’
‘My chin has lines when I do this…and I have really big cheeks.’ ‘Look I’m really happy.’
When Jack draws, he draws from habit; the same shape for each person, the same lines for each tree, I wanted to see what he would do when challenged to draw what he saw.
As expected he started drawing his regular forms; I let him draw for a while, content in watching him experiment with the dry-erase marker.
I remember reading a story from Reggio Emilia, of children and their observational drawings of leaves. How the teacher had gently guided them to notice more and more detail in the leaf and then represent that in their own drawings.
How she had helped to improve their drawing skills, not through an art lesson, but through a conversation, through observation; not telling them how to draw or what to draw, just helping them be present and to notice. This lesson has always stuck with me.
So we talked about what Jack could see in the mirror. What his face did when he moved different parts. How his eyes looked, what they did when he smiled.
And then he started to draw. For the first time he drew a wide mouth, and teeth, he drew nostrils and pupils, he drew the curls in his ears, and the lines on his chin.
Through a conversation, through observation, he is learning to draw.