Suddenly, your 5-year-old begins drawing people who look more like humans than sticks. Hands have most of their digits and legs are complete with feet.
Or your 8-year-old's sketches now include dimension: He shows you a picture of Mickey Mouse that you're sure he has traced, but he insists it's his own creation.
Are these signs that you're raising a budding Leonardo da Vinci? Not necessarily, art experts say. But it could mean that your child has a higher-than-average aptitude and interest in art.
Some art teachers suggest investing in art lessons to supplement in-school instruction, especially for those children who love to sit around and doodle. Parents shouldn't expect this extra instruction to nudge their offspring toward a career in art. But it might just enrich their extracurricular hours, improve their eye-hand coordination, fine tune motor skills and perhaps foster a lifelong appreciation of art.
Even children who don't draw especially well might benefit from additional instruction. One studio owner says: "If a child is interested, that's all it takes. Once you've got the interest, we can supply the rest."
In Southern California, programs that provide group instruction in children's art vary greatly in approach and philosophy. Some instructors claim they can make anyone an artist. Others offer no guarantees, except to provide a specified instruction period. Studios offering a no-obligation, free-trial lesson are noted.
Most schools accept new students anytime. Programs available through local parks and recreation departments are generally less expensive but operate on a set schedule.
Here's a sampling of art instruction for children:
Mission: Renaissance. Three Southland locations: 3972 Verdugo Road, Los Angeles, (213) 255-9196; 3055 Overland Ave., West Los Angeles, (213) 838-2227; 23560 Lyons Ave., Suite 101, Newhall, (805) 255-5633.
"We take students from age 5 to teen-agers and teach them the basics of drawing and painting," says Sheila Gluck, director of the Los Angeles and West Los Angeles studios. "Just as children are taught the alphabet, they can learn the basics of painting and drawing."
Gluck says that instructors first teach sketching with charcoal and newsprint, allowing children to proceed at an individual pace. Next is instruction in painting with oils, watercolors and pastels.
Classes last 1 1/2 hours per week and are ongoing. In Los Angeles and West Los Angeles, classes are available weekday afternoons and Saturdays, with a limit of seven students; Newhall has classes only on weekday afternoons, with a limit of 10 students. Monthly fees: $52 in Los Angeles, $65 in West Los Angeles, $54 in Newhall. Free trial lesson with phone-ahead reservation.
Art Experience, 11830 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 506-7804.
"Some art schools say, 'I can teach your child to paint in three lessons,' " says Susan Manders, owner. "I don't. I do teach techniques and help the children incorporate their own self-expression. The important thing is that they enjoy themselves."
Daytime and weekend classes are ongoing and are available to children 2 years and up. Instruction includes painting, drawing, sculpture and watercolors. Fees: $67 per month for two-hour weekly lessons, $40 per month for one-hour weekly lessons. Free trial lesson with phone-ahead reservation.
Junior Arts Center, Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 485-4474.
The center, which accepts students 3 years and older, offers instruction in drawing, painting, film, photography, ceramics and performance arts. Some of these are parent-child classes. Registration for the coming semester, which starts Tuesday, is now open.
Two other centers with art classes for children operate through the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department: the McGroarty Art Center, 7570 McGroarty Terrace, Tujunga, and the North Valley Art Center at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, 16601 Rinaldi St., Granada Hills. New classes start next week. Schedules and fees vary; call (818) 352-5285 for details at both locations. .
KidsArt, 4155 Russell Ave., Los Angeles, and 19642-B Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; telephone (818) 248-2483 for both locations.
"Art is seeing," says Sher Warren, who directs KidsArt with her husband, Ed Warren. "You're teaching someone how to see, to look at something and see that it's made up of shadows, shapes, tones. We are reorienting perception.
"Our philosophy is that anyone can learn to draw and paint well. Creativity follows mastery. In order to become artistically creative, you need basic skills. We supply that base."
Classes in drawing and painting (charcoal, pastel, watercolors, acrylics, oils, pen and ink and cartooning) have a maximum of 14 students and offer individualized instruction, with a ratio of one teacher per about six students. Classes are ongoing and are scheduled after school and on Saturdays. Fees: $40 per month for one-hour weekly classes; $60 per month for 1 1/2-hour weekly classes. There is also a registration fee of $10. Free introductory lesson with phone-ahead reservation.
City of Anaheim Parks and Recreation Department, Lakeview Art Center, 18432 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 999-5191.
"We offer mostly introductory-type classes," says Nancy Lerner, an Anaheim recreation services manager. New after-school classes begin next week; registration is under way. Classes include instruction in mixed-media crafts for ages 4-7; drawing and painting for youths 13-16, and a sculpture class for ages 7-12. Fees: $25 registration; $10 lab fee for mixed media and drawing and painting; $20 lab fee for sculpture.
An Art Affair, 1080 Estes St., El Cajon, (619) 588-2223.
Ongoing classes for children 7 and over are offered Saturday mornings in drawing, painting and watercolors. Fees are $8 for a 1 1/2-hour lesson, $10 for a two-hour lesson. With a phone-ahead reservation, parents and children can observe a class before enrolling. Irvine Fine Arts Center, Heritage Park, 14321 Yale Ave., Irvine, (714) 552-1018.
"Classes here are arranged according to age and skill levels," says director Amy Aspell. "We offer clay, mixed media, drawing and painting." Special events such as Youth Art Day are also part of the program, which is geared to children 3 years and over and is part of the the City of Irvine, Community Services Department. Fees vary according to class. The winter schedule includes about 10 children's classes and begins Monday; registration is now open. Torrance Parks and Recreation Department, the Joslyn Center for the Arts, 3335 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, (213) 618-5981.
The Torrance Parks and Recreation Department offers a variety of classes to a wide age range. Curator Barbara Johnson says: "We have beginning drawing and painting, exposure to different media for kids ages 6 to 9 and 10 to 13. We offer cartooning for children 10 to 16, and we offer art for little people, ages 2 1/2 to 5, and their parents, with a wide variety of painting and crafts." Fees vary. Classes are held after school and on Saturdays; classes for those 2 1/2 to 5 are held Friday mornings. New sessions start Monday; registration is under way. Call for more details on additional classes..
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St., Santa Barbara, (805) 963-4364.
Painting, drawing and sculpting classes, plus various one-day workshops, are available, according to Deborah Tufts, curator of education. Fees: Six-week after-school classes are $35 for museum members, $45 for non-members; new classes begin the week of Jan. 19. The Sunday Funday family workshop, held twice a month, is $4 per person. In addition, Saturday workshops for children 7-12 are offered about once a month; the next one is Jan. 30. Cost for the Saturday workshop is $20 for members, $25 for non-members. Call for future dates. Because most classes and workshops fill up quickly, pre-registration is strongly suggested.
The Athenaeum School of the Arts, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla, (619) 454-5872.
A multimedia class for children 8-12 is offered Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Called "Art Explore," it includes instruction in watercolor, oil pastels, pen-and-ink drawing, printmaking and papermaking, says Marjorie McNair, administrator. The school is part of the Athenaeum Music and Art Library, a membership library. Fees: Members pay $38.50 for eight lessons; non-members pay $48.50.