Communicative Aspects Of Children’s Art Making: an Examination Of The Dialogic In Children’s Visual Arts

Open Access
Kim, Hyunsu
Graduate Program:
Art Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 03, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Christine M Thompson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Yvonne Madelaine Gaudelius, Committee Member
  • Kimberly Anne Powell, Committee Member
  • James Ewald Johnson, Committee Member
  • Liora Bresler, Special Member
  • Children's art making
  • dialogism
  • discourse analysis
  • visual methodology
Despite the plethora of perspectives researchers have used to study children’s art, noticeably few researchers have attempted to provide strategies to elucidate the multilayered and responsive nature of visual languages in children’s art and the complex discourses in which children engage when making art. Consequently, the diverse and complex processes and meanings surrounding children’s art making often seem to be described in limited terms. The purpose of this study was to examine the communicative aspects of children’s art making. This study focuses on the multiple layers of communication in children’s art making and children’s early communication during art making,. The study also includes a discussion of the interactive realm of children’s art, which focuses on children’s interactions, the circulation of visual messages, and the role of art making in their daily lives. This research was conducted in a preschool located in a university-affiliated town in the Midwest. In the data-collection process, ethnographic methods were used, including observations, interviews, videotaping (to record children’s art-making process), analysis of the environment, and collection of documents in the selected classroom. As verbal and visual data were collected from the classroom environment, children’s talk and their evolving images were observed to be the main implements by which the flow of interaction and communication in context could be understood. This study approached the real actions of children across multiple communicative phases through observations of their art making. Results showed that the children used visual art as a cultural tool to communicate with others. Twenty-three communicative patterns were identified within their verbal and visual utterances during art making. In the analysis of art-making events, multiple types of utterances, different purposes, and various influences were observed to be operating together. Both the children’s verbal and visual utterances were formed from various types of talk, ranging from individual mediation to social negotiation, and these utterances had different purposes, such as art-related talk, play talk, self-talk, personal stories, and social talk. The term, “visual utterance,” is meant to capture the multiple symbolic languages involved in the generation of images and the stories behind the images, including the verbal discourses, the nonverbal interaction, and the context, in order to elucidate more fully the complexity of children’s process of creating visual images. Children’s various underlying meanings and communicative practices acted together to create utterances that emerged from internal negotiation, multiple relationships with others, and influences of the larger social discourse. Children construct communicable meanings in their art-making process through the interpersonal process of acquiring the importance of the other, and the mediated process of recognizing how the self makes meaning. Whenever children’s art-making process is investigated by focusing on their actions, talk, and the visual images they are creating, we should remember that particular situated contexts and the children’s internalization processes need to be valued as achievements of self-consciousness in dialogue with social factors.