Why your five-year-old could not have done that

Ever stood in front of a work of modern art – all spots and dribbles, or with child-like figures and random words scrawled across it? Or been mystified by an installation of a toilet (which won an art prize and got sent all the way to Paris)? If so, you may have had three thoughts in rapid succession:

  • I could do that
  • Hell no, my five year old could do it
  • Crikey, I hope they didn’t spend any of my taxes on this

If this sounds like you, you need to read Susie Hodge’s book: Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That, in which she takes us for a look at one hundred works of modern art and talks us through  them to show exactly why our five year olds could most certainly not have produced a dribbly Jackson Pollock or even the simplest looking Mark Rothko. According to Hodge, it’s got to do with intention, technical skill, layering of ideas, sheer inspiration, pushing new boundaries and historical context. Sure, maybe little Johnny can copy it now – but that’s only because he’s seen it done already.

Cover: My Art BookIt’s a fascinating little book for anyone who is interested in art, especially art education. I read it hand in hand with with My Art Book, which is a Dorling Kindersley publication for children. In My Art Book, art masterpieces are deconstructed to encourage children to copy the techniques of famous artists like Kandinsky and Van Gogh. It is a colourful book, fun and full of ideas. But I found it disturbing where children were really just copying masterpieces, like the little girl on page 37 – earnestly hunched over her ballerina, smudging it for all she’s worth to get it to look exactly like a Degas.

Irrespective of which of these two approaches you prefer, if you come along to the New Brighton Bookish Artists Art Exhibition in May (featuring art works by library staff), we won’t mind at all if you look at our work and think: “I could do better than that”, and what is more, we’d be only too delighted if you set out to copy us!

Here’s a taster from last year’s exhibition:

Painting Painting