THE CHILD AS ARTIST
IN CENTURIES PAST, there would have been little dispute in Western societies about how an individual enters the arts: the route was well defined. Among those relatively few individuals blessed with talent, and readily distinguished from the rest at an early age, some would elect (or be selected) to follow a life in art. They would then begin an arduous process by first enrolling, formally or informally, in a school, workshop, or atelier. There they would work with individuals of undisputed artistic achievement and learn the basic principles of their craft-- how to draw from life, how to mix colors, how to employ light, shading, and other effects. Over a period of time, and given the requisite effort, they would pass through a number of stages, ranked roughly as apprentice, journeyman, expert, and master. At the conclusion of this process, which might take years or even decades, they would be designated as artists by their community and would be allowed, in turn, to disseminate their hard-earned knowledge to others.
This picture is, of course, an idealization; probably at no time was the path from talented youth to acknowledged master artist that well defined--quite possibly risk and uncertainty have always marked the life (if not the very definition) of an artist. But such an ideal portrait does convey one very important feature: the attainment of artistry was acknowledged by virtually all individuals to be an arduous and time-consuming process, one that could be achieved only by a few after many years of training. Any thought that the attainment of artistry was easy, or that the young child might properly be viewed as an artist, would have been cursorily dismissed.