Artistic license is the way that artists change reality in order to make artwork that is more interesting or beautiful. Using artistic license is a great way for kids to express themselves and add personality to their art! Artistic license isn’t like a driver’s license that we have to apply for, we all already have it! We just need to use it. The Urban Dictionary defines it as the freedoms artists (or writers, film makers, etc) take with the facts in the process of creating; disregarding facts for the sake of the art. Who says sky has to be blue, or leaves green? Some changes are subtle, like leaving out a few cars from a street scene in order to simplify the composition a little. Or the changes might be larger like abstracting a cat like the Picasso style watercolor below or simplifying and stylizing shapes. And of course, purple leaves! Some kids just naturally do this, which is awesome, but others need some encouragement. Some poets use artistic license when they use grammar that isn’t quite right to make the words fit into the rhyme of the poem. Artistic license isn’t an excuse to not learn skills or to create haphazard work. It’s more like breaking some of the rules in a thoughtful purposeful way. In our Outside the Box Creation projects, we encourage kids to make their own artistic choices. That doesn’t mean we don’t want kids to learn some techniques and skills, (we totally do). But some of the most compelling reasons for doing art with kids is to help them create new synapses in their brains, make connections where they didn’t see any before, develop their creativity and creative problem solving skills, and further their social emotional learning. For more on using art for social emotional learning, read our blog post. If we want kids to get all that good stuff from art then we need to encourage them to explore and make their own creative choices; in other words, take some artistic license. Here are some areas to explore: Artistic License with Color Choice One of the easiest ways we can encourage kids to use artistic license is through color choice. Van Gogh once said, “Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of color to express myself more forcefully.” It’s good to expose kids to some basic color theory: the color wheel, complimentary and analogous colors, warm and cool colors. •The two most common color schemes that artists use are complimentary and analogous. Complimentary colors are those directly across the color wheel from each other, like red and green. Artwork that uses primarily complimentary colors usually has a nice energy and holds together well. Analogous colors are neighbors on the color wheel like blue, green, and yellow. They get along well together. Art with analogous color schemes is typically harmonious and calm. Depending on what feeling your kids wish to convey with their art and what colors they like, they may choose to change the colors of their subject matter in order to create complimentary or analogous color schemes. •Warm and cool colors: warm colors are red, yellow, and orange. Think warmth of the sun or fire! Cool colors are blue, green, and purple. Think ice, water, cool grass. Your kids might choose to only use warm colors if they want to create art that evokes a warm, sunny feeling, or cool colors if they want to convey a feeling of coolness. There is much more to color theory than this, but these are great basics to start with for kids. •Talk to kids about how colors affect them and how the use of particular colors can help them convey different emotions. We’re going to be writing a blog post on color meanings and symbolism. In the meantime, ask your child(ren) to name some things in our society that usually are specific colors like: wedding dresses, school buses, fire trucks, red crosses on medical vehicles. Ask them if they can speculate why. This artist used artistic license in color choice, simplifying the composition & shapes, and stylizing and using mostly warm colors. Artistic License by Changing Composition •When looking at art together, ask them if they think the artist used any artistic license with color or the composition (how objects in a painting or drawing are arranged), or even how objects are drawn, painted, or sculpted. •If they are trying to draw or paint a scene, remind them that they can simplify the composition by not including everything they see or moving an object. For instance, if they are drawing a landscape scene and there is a tree in front of a house, perhaps it would look better if the tree were behind the house or beside it. Maybe there are way too many trees and they’d just like to draw a few of them. •When thinking about composition, it helps to look at the objects in your picture just as shapes and try to forget what they actually are. You can tell these are trees but it feels like a fantasy place because of the colors and simplification of the composition. Artistic License by Abstracting or Stylizing Subject Matter •Let’s say your kids are painting pictures of your dog. One easy way to stylize the dog portrait is to emphasize certain features. Perhaps your dog has big sad eyes and those eyes really convey his personality. Painting his portrait with eyes that are larger than they actually should be in reality, would be a way to use artistic license to convey his personality. Or maybe they’re painting a tree in your front yard and the roots aren’t visible but they want to paint the root structure as a way to show that the big old tree is sturdy and comforting to your family. Or maybe they add a tire swing to the picture that isn’t really there? Encourage them to be thoughtful about the changes they’re making. Edgar DeGas once said “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” •Getting totally fanciful and suspending reality is another option. Let’s go back to that dog portrait and pretend that you have two dogs and one of them just passed away. Your kids might paint a portrait of your remaining dog with big sad eyes dripping tears that flow into a river or something that’s totally different that came out of their imaginations. Once your children become comfortable with the concept of artistic license, hopefully you can begin suggesting they use it. And it’s totally OK to ask them about their artistic choices. By telling you why they made specific artistic decisions, they’re deepening their own understanding of their individual planning process, even if they didn’t realize they had planning processes! This in turn will help their brains and their artwork grow and become more and more nuanced and complex over time!