Simplicity, Innocence Emerge in Children’s Artwork at Library

A pencil collection. A trip to an amusement park. A family dinner.

When children are asked to record their keepsakes and experiences as art, these are the kinds of things they depict. The simplicity of a child’s world and a delight in family and friends are evident in an exhibit continuing at the Van Nuys Branch Library.

“Family Keepsakes,” a series of works by two fourth-grade classes at San Pedro Street School, will move Dec. 8 to the city library’s Granada Hills branch. Aficionados of fine art may find it uninteresting, but those who cherish innocence will be entertained.

One boy has drawn an elaborate amusement park, the sort of place where a child could lose himself for an idyllic day.


A girl has done what appears to be a family portrait, except that the 10 or so members are all female. Is it her family, or perhaps a fantasy life?

Accompanying the art are short biographies, many in Spanish, that offer some insight into the children’s lives.

The artworks were done in a six-week program designed by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The program encourages students to use Polaroid photographs, photocopiers, metallic inks and other materials in addition to conventional crayons and watercolors. The results, like the media, are mixed.

The children achieve some startling effects by making collages of photocopied photographs of themselves with drawings and cutout pieces of cardboard. Thus one girl’s self-portrait shows her smiling face on top of a clown-like body of brightly colored shapes. Like a child’s mental world, she is half real and half imaginary.


Less successful are the students’ examples of cyanotype, a reverse-photo technique in which objects are placed on photosensitive paper and exposed to sunlight. Most of the works hold all the fascination of old ink blotters, although a few achieve an intriguing “underwater” effect.

But in this exhibit, the fun had in the creation counts as much as the results. Several students obviously delighted in coloring their Polaroid self-portraits with gold metallic ink. They have given themselves enormous gilded crowns and Goldilocks hairdos.

“People have been enthralled by this,” Van Nuys children’s librarian Angelica Gracia said of the exhibit. “You can see so easily what the children think and feel.”

“Family Keepsakes” continues at the Van Nuys Branch Library, 6250 Sylmar Ave., through Dec. 7; it moves to the Granada Hills Branch Library, 10640 Petit Ave., Dec. 8 to Jan. 4. Hours of Van Nuys Library are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, noon to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays. Call (818) 989-8453.