This Christmas, Give a Child the Life-long Gift of Art Appreciation...

The effect of simply looking at a piece of art which ‘speaks’ to us is well known to the art loving community. In these blogs we’ve already talked at length about the powerful, palliative effect art can have on the receptive viewer, actually producing chemical changes in the brain which improve emotional, mental and physical health.


But if you already have a passion for the intense pleasure of engaging with art, you don’t really need to understand what’s happening in the cerebral cortex whenever a painting excites or moves you. You can just sit back and enjoy the effect of entering other worlds through the magic doorways of art and then emerging from those journeys calmer, sharper and more focused. There is no real need to analyse it.


And perhaps there’s no need to wonder whether other people, (who have not learned the skills required for art appreciation), are being deprived of a historically fundamental and therapeutic human interaction. Mostly, we don’t stop to think about it. But isn’t it just possible that if we could share the benefits of art with others we would make a real contribution to the world we live in?


Does that sounds a bit like a pitch of some kind? You’re right. It’s getting close to Christmas, the season of giving, and we’d like to suggest a very specific kind of giving.


Of course we’d love it if you felt inspired to rush over to the gallery and choose a brilliant and powerful piece of art for your nearest and dearest! But, while you’re planning that excellent gift, there is something more general and perhaps even more generous you might want to consider. How about giving the gift of art appreciation to a child in your life this Christmas?


Art has the power to make changes for the better in children as young as two or three. Research shows that introducing art appreciation to children under the age of five helps to develop imagination, the ability to concentrate, emotional intelligence, empathy and language skills. And who can doubt that a world filled with emotionally intelligent, empathetic, creative and articulate people would be an improvement?


How to introduce art appreciation...

Well, obviously, you can’t just buy a toolkit containing everything required to let a child appreciate art. But you can buy books. Beautifully illustrated books. (The caliber of the art really does matter, according to researchers.) The ultra-simple shapes and bright, primary colours that have immediate appeal for small children certainly have their place in a kids’ library. But they do not produce the benefits we are talking about. (And if you pay attention you will discover that children are very quickly bored by them.)


Subtleties, suggestions and shades of colour, (and bright colours are not excluded here!), of expression and of unfolding action that deepen and expand the story, or perhaps even tell the story, these are what is required to stimulate the same responses an appreciative adult will have when gazing at a piece of art. These are also the qualities that stimulate imagination, conversation, identification and all those other responses that are part of the developmental curve produced by art.


And all from something as simple and easy to get hold of as a wonderfully illustrated book!


Where do you start looking?


If you do not have a collection of such books from your own childhood to inspire you, try some of the short listed and winning entries among the international book illustrations awards. There are numerous lists of ‘best illustrated’ children’s books online. We particularly like this one.


There are also annual competitions like the New York Times ‘Best Illustrated Children’s Books Awards.


And it just so happens that the exhibition of the World Illustration Awards 2018 is now running, (from November 17th 2018 to 5th January 2019), at the Falmouth Art Gallery. So if you want to combine a bit of field research with a trip to the Roseland peninsula, this might be just the event for you.


Finally, in case you need any added incentive, the reward of choosing a gift like this at Christmas time is not just that of ‘doing some good’ for someone you care about. You will get something out of it too: the pleasure of reading through some of these exquisite works of children’s art and storytelling is immense.


In fact, we predict you will have to look through a long, long list of these treasures and to undergo many moments of intense delight and pleasure, before finally selecting a few for the lucky child, or children, in your life!