How to raise an alpha kid: the super-rich parent's guide to painting and drawing
-BySusie Mesure 12 October 2020 • 7:00am
"Art isn't just a hobby - it brings cognitive benefits, and a bulging portfolio could gain your child entry to a top school or college"
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The Sunny Art Centre art course for children CREDIT: Roman Penderev
Why is it worth the investment?
It took Pablo Picasso “four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” so it’s worth getting your own offspring started early. Not that they need aim for Old Master status: drawing has plenty of benefits, from stimulating children’s creativity and imagination to making them more confident.
“When you’re making an art work, you become an author. Drawing constantly reaffirms your ability to make decisions,” says Darren Marshall, head of art at Bonas MacFarlane, the London-based tutors. “Artists tend to be thoughtful and engaged.”
Lauren Child, the author and illustrator behind the Charlie and Lola series, says drawing helps kids “see the world in a different way” because they engage more with what’s around them. “When you are looking and drawing in your community, you are playing a part in it,” she adds. Then there are the cognitive benefits. “Drawing, mark making, and sculpting help you think and encourage creative communication just as language does,” says Doug Knight, who heads the art department at Bryanston, the Dorset-based independent school that numbers Sir Terence Conran and Lucian Freud among its alumni. Fiona McCrindle, director of the Edinburgh Drawing School, adds that drawing “works the creative, right hand side of children’s brains, which is both relaxing and engaging for them”.
A bulging art portfolio can also help children stand out when it comes to common entrance exams for some of the UK’s best independent schools. Strong, traditional drawing skills are essential because children will usually face a drawing test. “It will be very observational based,” adds Marshall. Applicants will also need to talk about artists they are interested in, so regular trips to galleries such as the Tate are a must.
Where are the best places to study?
One of the main advantages with art is it’s something that can be done anywhere, even at home over Zoom. Many of Marshall’s clients live overseas. “I do video chats, demonstrate on screen and they send me images of their work,” he says. Mina Dagbasi, 21, who is studying Interior Design at Chelsea College of Art, was based in Turkey when she started working with Marshall four years ago. With his support, she got onto a foundation course at Central Saint Martins. She loves the breadth of the discipline. “You don’t even have to be perfect at drawing. It’s about what you think that nobody else thinks that matters,” she says.
For tuition from some of the world’s best teachers, a specialist art institution such as the Sunny Art Centre, in central London, is a good bet. Its art tutors come from London’s Royal Academy, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and Athen’s Academy of Art. Groups are limited to ten children maximum , although there are also live online courses because of Covid-19, says headteacher Yinjie Sun. “Studying the fine arts will encourage children to think outside of the box and hone their problem-solving skills by encouraging them to find new and creative ways to solve issues at hand.”
As well as Bryanston, Bedales in Hampshire, Downe House in Berkshire, and The King’s School in Canterbury, Kent, all have thriving art departments at secondary school level but every independent school will offer plenty of scope for children to nurture their creative side. Roedean, in East Sussex, has recently invested in its art resources; the number of students taking art at A-level alongside more traditional STEM subjects is increasing as a result. For higher education, the Royal College of Art remains the pinnacle, regularly topping every other institution for art and design in the QS World University Rankings, with UAL - University of the Arts London - coming a close second. It is home to Chelsea College of Arts, Central St Martins and Camberwell College of Arts, among others. Outside London, the Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh College of Art are both highly regarded. Overseas, Parsons School of Design, in New York, and Rhode Island School of Design, also have strong reputations.
What’s the best age to get serious?
“I’d love to say as young as possible. I wish more art took place in primary schools, just so people see it as something that can seriously enhance [children’s] educational experience and enjoyment,” says Knight. For Yinjie, it’s important that it’s the kids deciding to take his courses, rather than their parents deciding for them. He agrees with the younger the better, partly because drawing can give children a different way to express themselves when they are young. “Plus, studying drawing will help kids understand how to self-discipline themselves,” he adds.
What’s the experience like for the parent and child?
“Parents often say art has a calming effect on children,” says Marshall. “The process of sitting down and becoming materially and mentally absorbed by the techniques of art seems to push out all other thoughts and worries. For the duration of their art time they slow down to its slow, attentive pace.”
Where can I get the best kit?
The best brands for good pencils and paintbrushes include Blackwing, Caran D’Ache, Blockx, Daler Rowney and Winsor & Newton, while Etchr and Khadi make wonderful sketchbooks and paper for painting. A good digital camera and a computer with a good processing ability and a large memory are both useful for GCSE and A level work. Nothing beats a good Mac, says Marshall.
What do the former child prodigies say now?
“For me, the best feeling is finishing a piece so people can see what I was thinking about. I hope to start my own interior design company,” says Dagbasi.
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