Quantifying creativity to expand it? Better art begins with better understanding

Summary: Mixing materials allow for more varied and nuanced expressions of artistic creativity in children.

Source: JAIST

Do different painting materials affect the creation of children’s paintings? How might we increase children’s focus and motivation to learn, while also improving their creativity? Researchers focusing on these very questions at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) have recently published the results of a wide-spanning study involving more than 650 children, revealing insight into improving fine art education for children.

Through various genres, styles, and even periods of art, media used to create paintings varies greatly. Delicate materials, such as crepe paper or fine brushes, tend to be the materials of choice when artists wish to produce a painting with fine details. Rough materials, on the other hand, tend to result in rougher, more abstract lines. Complex and subtle interplay of the combinations of these materials allows for more varied and nuanced expressions, as well.

Researchers Lan Yu and Yukari Nagai confirm that children tend to use relatively few materials when painting, most of which are best-suited to representing fine detail, such as watercolor pens and colored pencils. These finely detailed implements may be the ones chosen for the primary school classroom due to reasons of convenience, cost, and cleanup. Nevertheless, these types of materials are most commonly used in realistic, detailed styles of art – and indeed, children who use these materials do tend to work in such styles of artwork.

Children don’t mix media often, and the results of this study indicate that children feel that it is difficult to do so. When they do mix media, it tends to result in uneven line thicknesses and color, leading to a final product worse than they had hoped.

This is a child's drawing of a day at a beach
Color materials enhance Children’s creativity. Image is credited to JAIST.

However, despite the complacency that children and indeed teachers may feel with their comfortable and convenient painting materials, limiting the media used for creating artwork seems to result in disinterest, and robs children of the opportunity for growth. This study raises concerns that using the same tools that painting students have always used, or avoiding combining tools with which they are familiar, may not produce the best results. Luckily, the young learners in this study displayed positive attitudes toward trying new materials, indicating that teaching techniques involving new materials would likely be accepted. In fact, introducing new materials into children’s fine art education may produce clear beneficial results.

The researchers make clear recommendations to educators involved in fine art for children. According to the study, introduction of new materials would expand children’s repertoires, and could allow them not only to improve the visual effects of their paintings, but even to expand their creative consciousness. The process of mixing different painting materials expands children’s creativity, and can also improve their motivation, resulting in increased ability to maintain attention on learning, a skill crucial both inside and outside the primary school classroom. Finally, children should be instructed not only in the application and use of new media, but also how to manage object proportion using adaptive training exercises with multiple materials.

About this neuroscience research article

Media Contacts:
Yukari Nagai – JAIST
Image Source:
The image is credited to JAIST.

Original Research: Open access
“Painting Practical Support: A Study about the Usage of Painting Materials in Children’s Painting Works”. by Lan Yu and Yukari Nagai *.
Social Sciences doi:10.3390/socsci9040033


Painting Practical Support: A Study about the Usage of Painting Materials in Children’s Painting Works

Painting materials are one of the mediums that help painters to show the effects of paintings. The use of different painting materials can help the painter to display different painting styles and artistic conception. Six hundred sixty-seven children aged 7 to 13 participated in the study. This study is mainly about the impact of the use of different painting materials on children’s painting creation. The questionnaire survey was conducted based on primary school fine arts education to study the influence of painting materials on children’s painting ability. The content of the questionnaire survey was to investigate children’s usage of different painting materials in painting works and the grasp of painting materials knowledge. This research also provided some painting materials training methods for primary school fine arts teachers to guide children to use different painting materials for painting creation based on the study results.

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