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Amber, age 9, and Jenny age 8, working on compositions.
Variations of the Ground Line
The ground line can also be implied. Often a child will draw her house in the center of the page with no horizontal line appearing at all. None the less, the house and vegetation are all arranged in a horizontal configuration that implies the existence of a horizontal ground line under the drawn composition. The ground line may also be placed in different parts of the page, in the center, towards the top, or lower down on the page. However, as the young artist is now differentiating strongly between top and bottom of her page, with the top serving as “sky” and the bottom relegated to “ground”, most often the horizontal line for ground is placed near the bottom edge of the page.

working on compositionsThis ground line is what the human eye perceives as being the closest area of any composition. As the child begins to intuit this rule of human vision, she becomes interested in experimenting with this horizontal concept. She may then place a horizontal line across the center of the page, in addition to the one that she has drawn on the bottom. Moving it up the page will have different visual results. She may vary the size of the figure on the bottom of the page so that the viewer now perceives a near ground and a far ground, the second horizontal line in the middle of the page designating a space that is perceived as farther away because it is above the horizontal line at the bottom of the page. The child now has two ground lines to consider in her composition. Often the objects placed on the middle horizontal line are smaller than those in the foreground at the bottom. This may be because there is less overhead room on the page now that she is starting in the middle, or it may be an early variation to express distance, the middle page being perceived as farther away than the ground line on the bottom part of the page.

In Western cultures the notion of distance, or receding space in a composition, has been important since the Renaissance when paintings began to assimilate characteristics of “windows” through which the viewer gazed. Child art will seek to express this concept, although there is no evidence that the inclusion is developmental. Rather it is a learned concept that visually evolves in different ways, through trial and error. By the time the child is twelve she has exhausted earlier schemas and is advancing towards depth and emotional expression in her drawings which will express this culturally learned compositional organization.

Finally, there seems to be no specific end point to artistic and perceptual development. Rather, children pass through early deep development that is universal. Once the child begins to draw the human figure the society in which he or she lives begins to take interest in directing the art work towards a cultural, art historical tradition. If the child is going to continue to draw, it is important that the society interact by giving support and direction to emerging artistic abilities.