why do kids draw copies of things they think are cool? (serious question)
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Thread: why do kids draw copies of things they think are cool? (serious question)

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    why do kids draw copies of things they think are cool? (serious question)

    I've been wondering this for a while. Like a lot of you, I grew up drawing as a kid. The thing is--and I'm not totally sure my memory's accurate on this--I barely ever drew from imagination. What mostly happened was I'd see something that I thought looked really, really cool, mostly on TV, occasionally in real life, and then I'd be like, "OMG, gotta draw that!" And I'd grab a pencil and paper, try a rendition of it or two, and be like, sweet, I captured it (btw, I've seen a couple drawings from when I was in the single digits, and they were nothing special, but that's beside the point). It was a weird itch I HAD to scratch. Back then, way more than I do now, I found form to be really beautiful, and I was obsessed with cars and robots and junk. I drew the everliving crap out of the Sea Duck from Talespin, because I thought it was gorgeous for whatever reason. I remember trying over and over to draw those giant red and purple robot things from the Xmen cartoon series. I loved Tim Burton's Batmobile, and I remember spending time trying to get it right. I loved the Dragonzord from the original Power Rangers. Gizmoduck from Ducktales. The Enterprise from Star Trek: TNG. Cars I thought were cool. Computers. Video game characters (Samus, Megaman X). Etc.

    I think part of wanting to capture an impression of them was that we didn't have a VCR, and I couldn't just record these things I thought were awesome and I wanted to spend time looking at. And there was no Internet, so I couldn't just find shots of them. But I don't think that was the entire reason for wanting to get them down on paper. It was just this really strong urge to do it.

    I taught myself guitar when I was a teenager, and I guess I felt some of that same urge to generate stuff I heard that I liked. If I heard a song I really liked, I wanted to learn it and be able to play it myself.

    None of this, the drawing or the guitar stuff, was stuff I did because I wanted to show off to other people. I mean, people complimented me and I appreciated it, but the motivation was all internal. I loved to be alone copying things.

    As I got older, around high school age, there was shift: I stopped drawing copies of things I liked, and instead I started copying visual styles (anime, or the styles of random illustrators I thought were cool (Yoshitaka Amano, other random Japanese videogame concept people)), but using those styles to draw from my own imagination instead. And the same is true today: if I see something really cool, I don't want to copy it, but I might really want to do something like it. Or if I see an interesting visual style, I might want to try doing something similar, but not exactly like it.

    So, anyway, the copying. What's up with that?

    BTW, marginally related, I saw this cool timeline of the development of kids' drawing a while ago:
    http://www.learningdesign.com/Portfo...iddrawing.html

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    Because they're kids?? Kids like stuff.

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    Heh, I'm sure theres a more in depth explanation...for me personally I just wanted to create my own adventures with Robotech and He-man.
    Now its a lot easier for kids to surround themselves with all kinds of marketing posters, pictures and paraphenalia. But back in South Africa in the 80s
    we just had the cartoons, toys and the odd coloring book. I could draw better than most of my peers and the first designs I took to heart were basic
    renderings of Skeletor and the like. I was not interested in doing life studies, if I wanted to draw my family and pets I would just do it from my head, accuracy be damned.
    So yeah, putting my favorite things onto paper was just a natural outlet. Dinosaurs were actually the things I drew the most.
    One thing I could never get right as a kid was Darth Vader, I always made his helmet look like a bob-cut. It was frustrating.

    Fortunately my own dad was incredibly easy to draw and he looked (looks) like a sinister version of Magnum PI.

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    Because you're a small primate and that's what we primates do when we're small? We imitate stuff. We especially imitate stuff we like.

    Also if you're a kid and you really like something, you're probably going to obsess over it endlessly. And what better way to obsess over something than to copy it. And I know for me as a kid, drawing things was sort of a way of making them my own - this piece of paper is my own little world that I can occupy and control however I want, naturally I'm going to want to fill it with stuff I like. Being given a thing isn't quite the same - it's yours, but it's not as much yours as if you draw it yourself. Or something like that.

    Plus, drawing is magic. And who wouldn't use their magic to make stuff they like? The impulse to copy is probably born from the exact same impulses that made cavemen draw bison all over cave walls.

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    Oh yeah, dinosaurs, completely forgot. Jurassic Park came out when I was little, and I drew my share of T-rexes and raptors. And re: Star Wars, I don't think I ever drew the characters, but I was way into trying to draw X-Wings and TIE Fighters. Huh. It's actually really weird that I was into all this industrial design stuff when I was little and it never translated into anything later in life. I wonder why I barely ever drew people too. Maybe I thought I sucked at them.

    Anyway, I think the question is interesting, because what if this is something that affects whether kids spend lots of time drawing or not? And thus affects whether they become artists or not? If it's true that there's no such thing as talent, and that (almost) anyone who puts the time in can achieve a decent amount of skill (I'm not sure either of these is true, but people seem to think so), then theoretically couldn't most kids spend lots of time drawing and eventually be reasonably good? The reality is: they don't. Only a small handful do. Why? I know when I was little, people always complimented my drawing skills, but again, looking back at those drawings now, they were nothing special. Maybe they were marginally better than my peers' drawings? I dunno. But I kept at it, because I loved to draw crap I saw that I liked. Do most kids have that urge, but they don't draw because they're discouraged? Why?

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    Because you're a small primate and that's what we primates do when we're small? We imitate stuff. We especially imitate stuff we like.
    I was wondering that. Is there an evolutionary advantage to wanting to copy stuff? Maybe it's in our best interest to copy what's come before, so we don't waste time reinventing the wheel. Interesting to think that the evolution and transmission of culture might be driven by instinct. But ... why do we like what we like? Why does a kid like robots and dinosaurs? Maybe we like standing up to our fears (freakish monsters), and we're tool-users, so we like badass tools that elevate us higher than what's come before (robots, vehicles).

    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    Being given a thing isn't quite the same - it's yours, but it's not as much yours as if you draw it yourself. Or something like that.
    Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that in my original post, thanks for pointing it out. There's definitely a strong urge to make it MINE. To make it come from me. That's interesting too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by diamandis View Post
    I was wondering that. Is there an evolutionary advantage to wanting to copy stuff? Maybe it's in our best interest to copy what's come before, so we don't waste time reinventing the wheel.
    It's not just about reinventing the wheel, it's about survival. If you're a primitive human living out in the wilderness, bad decisions are likely to kill you. Imitating successful adults of your species is a good basic way to avoid bad decisions. If you tend to eat only the plants your parents eat, you are less likely to die of poisoning. If you go only where your parents go, you are less likely to get eaten by a predator. If you imitate the sounds others of your species make, you can communicate with them. Any kids that weren't prone to imitation were more likely to eat bad food, drink bad water, wander off into a predator's territory and generally get themselves killed off before they could breed.

    Once you stop being a kid and you know how to survive in your environment, innovation is more important so that you can compete more effectively for mates and resources. That's why we are also curious and adaptable, and not just imitators.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    Once you stop being a kid and you know how to survive in your environment, innovation is more important so that you can compete more effectively for mates and resources. That's why we are also curious and adaptable, and not just imitators.
    Dope. Makes sense. Quoting because this is way interesting. It's funny how a basic underlying principle like that manifests in innovation ... not just in art, but all over the place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by diamandis View Post
    why do kids draw copies of things they think are cool? (serious question)
    Because it makes them happy and they think it is fun?

    Last edited by Pigeonkill; January 21st, 2013 at 12:11 AM.
    Make a sketchbook happy, feed it a tip to improve!

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    When I was little I wanted to be Spiderman because he was cool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JFierce View Post
    When I was little I wanted to be Spiderman because he was cool.
    Back in the day he was cool...before he became all emo and self loathing and...not fun.

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    that seaplane in Tailspin WAS awesome wasnt it. and the TNG Enterprise, its such a strange looking spaceship, i loved how it was so wide and had that sweet kickback on the arms that held the engines. took loads of attempts to get that right in Deluxe Paint 3... the later ones never looked as good in my opinion.
    i wrote to Andrew Probert the guy who designed the Enterprise D along with loads of other neat movie things, the little guys from Batteries Not Included, the BTTF2 Delorean, etc, and said thanks for everything and how it had inspired me loads and made me want to be an designer and so on, and he wrote a really nice letter back. Cool guy. Maybe go check him out and show him some love if you have 5 minutes i think hes doing star trek calandars and stuff now...

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    Oh yeah. The TNG Enterprise is the best one. It's so organic. I didn't know that guy did the Delorean too. Although I guess there wasn't much to do, was there? Those dark gray exhaust things do look cool. I'm reading up on him right now.

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    I haven't seen the new movie of Spidey if that's what your referring to. For me Spiderman will always be the Spidey from the old cartoon (not the oldest, I think it was from the 90's)

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    I mostly drew animals and peoples faces from National Geographic.....I don't know if that's cool or not?

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    Ronn Cobb did the original BTTF time machine, I think he took over and did the one from part 2, ie the Mr Fusion. Which blew my mind as a kid.

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    Because it's an obsession. Ever get obsessed with a particular fandom or thing? Of course this is going to show in your work. The obsession is a huge motivator.
    Although I'm no longer (technically) a kid at age 23, I still get that obsession with a particular thing sometimes. In 2011 it made me stick with an entire series of 16th century English queen portraits. In 2012 it made me paint several Tintin fanarts.
    Obsession is a wonderful thing when it makes you draw like mad. Every kid should have a fandom to obsess about. Even if they start with just copies (as I did when I was a 12 year old Dragon Ball fangirl), they eventually move away from imitating, like you (the OP) did, and eventually develop their own subjects based on what they learnt from these "masters".

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    Quote Originally Posted by JFierce View Post
    I haven't seen the new movie of Spidey if that's what your referring to. For me Spiderman will always be the Spidey from the old cartoon (not the oldest, I think it was from the 90's)
    That was a good show. Spiderman...spiiider....spidermanspidermanradioact ivespiderblood or something.

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    Blech, was beaten to the punch, but essentially:

    Children learn at first, my pure mimicry. After you internalize a bit of mimicry, that's where creativity surfaces of utilizing those mimic'ed skills to create things. Unfortunately, like Picasso and many others have observed, the mainstay of education is to suppress this, and make people conform into a more rote scientific way of thinking: The sciences, maths, engirneers, etc, are more important. To some extent, they are: They are what sustains human civilization and makes it progress technologically. But is civilization, really, without art and culture? It will be void, and lifeless, and grey steel beams stretching for the vast stretches of forever. No creativity, no art, No art, no culture. No culture, no "true" civilization, or one that has any meaning or worth. It is an inherent machine that can only sustain, remain static, and never change, and will eventually run out and die once resources are depleted, because without creativity, it cannot adapt or change.

    So..uuh, that went on a tangent there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maidith View Post
    Because it's an obsession. Ever get obsessed with a particular fandom or thing? Of course this is going to show in your work. The obsession is a huge motivator.
    Although I'm no longer (technically) a kid at age 23, I still get that obsession with a particular thing sometimes. In 2011 it made me stick with an entire series of 16th century English queen portraits. In 2012 it made me paint several Tintin fanarts.
    Obsession is a wonderful thing when it makes you draw like mad. Every kid should have a fandom to obsess about. Even if they start with just copies (as I did when I was a 12 year old Dragon Ball fangirl), they eventually move away from imitating, like you (the OP) did, and eventually develop their own subjects based on what they learnt from these "masters".
    Signed! I know a surprising lot of people outside of fandom who get really mad at fanartists and writers for some reason ("they're ruining the show!!!") but I've gotten almost all my writing chops from tirelessly writing fanfiction (of improving quality) over many years, for many fandoms. These days I write mostly original stuff, 280,000 word novels and all, but sometimes I also like going back to the challenge of having the limitations of an established canon to work within, it keeps you on your toes. Did most of my early stuff suck? Sure! A lot still does, but obsession is a neat little thing to keep you churning out work. One of my big art motivators is still the excitement of drawing some of my favourite characters again.



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    Quote Originally Posted by NoSeRider View Post
    I mostly drew animals and peoples faces from National Geographic.....I don't know if that's cool or not?
    I used to copy things like that when I was younger all the time too!
    I always copied animals out of my many animal photography/encyclopedia books, or things from documentaries... they were mostly animal related. Thinking about it, that's what I always watched on TV, I was never really one to obsess over cartoons and draw them like I did my documentaries (although I loved Cartoon Network, back in the good ol' days). I was a strange child, I'd rather watch a documentary about the African Savannah and then find images of the animals I saw and draw those. You'd think from all that I'd be able to draw animals a slight bit easier... nope.

    Oh, I also used to obsessively copy pictures from books I liked. I remember one in particular, it was a painting of an angel on the front of a poetry book and I spend days making sure I copied it as exact as my 6 year old mind could manage. My mum used to give me pictures to copy for her as well, she found it quite amusing and even introduced me to the grid method, that blew my mind!

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    Quote Originally Posted by diamandis View Post
    why do kids draw copies of things they think are cool?
    Drawing “cool” or badass stuff (might make a good topic on its own) is easier to do than drawing it’s normal mundane counterpart. After all cool or badass stuff is nothing more than a desired exaggeration of normal stuff. Poorly drawn cool stuff is received with much greater forgiveness by a young (or just immature) audience than it’s mundane counterpart, like Mom’s minivan vs Mom’s minivan with monster truck tires and a machine gun turret on top.


    Quote Originally Posted by diamandis View Post
    Back then, way more than I do now, I found form to be really beautiful,
    I call that form (and line) empathy. Looking back on my experience as a kid, it was a strong unrefined (ofcourse) emotional/visceral response to form and line. It seems to fade away in adult brains, as we become more cognitively capable. I think that form empathy or this visceral resonance to form is a key component of what’s known as ‘artistic sensibility’ in adult artists.

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    btw bill618, great portfolio. And I love me some Jacek Yerka, so this is cool: http://www.behance.net/gallery/FIGMENT/3712344

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maledict View Post
    and make people conform into a more rote scientific way of thinking
    Science is neither rote nor static. It's insanely creative. Science is all about having new ideas all the fucking time. Scientists not only have culture, different areas of science have different culture. Anybody who thinks that the world would be some sort of dull concrete steel shit if you handed it to the scientists doesn't know a single research scientist. Fuck, they don't even know any engineers, because if you let engineers loose with a keg of beer you get bridges built out of spaghetti and cars that drive themselves.

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    Science, math AND engineering are all highly creative fields. The only "problem" with those disciplines is the way they're typically taught in your average school, which reduces them to force-fed textbook pedantry...

    Science is fundamentally about curiosity and wonder. Math is a language that can encode all the workings of the universe. Engineering is like kids with lego sets on a large scale, it's ALL about tinkering and making stuff. How is any of that possibly dull?

    I mean... This is science at work, right here. HOW IS THAT DULL.

    Children are natural scientists to begin with - being curious, messing with things, tinkering, seeing what happens... If anything, it's the scientific instinct that gets beaten out of them when their natural curiosity is suppressed.

    (And FYI, I've met real scientists and engineers. They're all pretty cool people. Heck, my Grandpa was an inventor. And he was awesome.)

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; January 31st, 2013 at 01:48 AM.
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    I don't remember copying stuff from TV, books etc. Aside from about three Digimon drawings I kinda did my own thing, I was definitely influenced by stuff I saw/read but it was rarely obvious where from and it was pretty mixed. I did copy one of my friends though who everyone thought was really good at drawing (for a 6 year old) and later on I realised she copied me too. Our kid age drawings show a lot of similarity in style, did noses the same way, hands, hair, similar themes, I had a phase of drawing cars, a little later she had that .

    But I think, especially as kids, we all wanted to do cool drawings. Lacking skill or organised creativity to make up stuff cool enough on ones own copying is an easy way. And kids don't really care that it's copied, it COOL!

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    I copied a few things, but most of my boxes and boxes of drawings from childhood were originals. Whatever bizarre stuff came out of my imagination.

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