Drawing Development Timeline: Schematic

The schematic stage occurs from ages seven to nine.

It is characterized by the repeated use of schema, symbols which are in a child's visual vocabulary and used to convey meaning. These schema are constantly being revised by copying and incorporating cultural schema, such as V-shaped seagulls and five-pointed stars. Drawings in this stage also tend to have a strong narrative element. Often children in this stage have different ways of showing as much action and story and space as possible—for example, fold-outs, cutaways, and multiple view points.

Tori, age 7

Tori's drawing of the ocean shelf reveals many key features of the schematic drawing stage. First, she is using a double baseline to help indicate depth. The scale of elements in the drawing are also used to show "near" and "far" — her dolphin is very large, whereas the sandcastle and the person sitting under an umbrella in the lifeguard chair is very small. Tori shows that she has developed a schema for the sun, drawing it as a circle with lines radiating outward. She also has a schema for fish—a lemon-shape with triangular tails and colored lips. Her use of color is deliberate and naturalistic—the water is blue, the sand is tan, and the sun is yellow.

Caroline, age 7

Caroline's moose was drawn with a blue ballpoint pen, enabling her to show fine details. The moose stands on an implied baseline, and the part of her that is underwater is visible to us—drawings in the schematic stage often make parts of the drawing transparent to make important elements clear to the viewer—they are known as X-Ray drawings.

Ariel, age 8

Ariel's drawing of treats shows another convention used in the schematic stage. Her ice cream is large and seen in profile. The punch, box of ice cream on the floor, and the popsicle are also shown in profile, but the hamburger and its plate are shown in topdown view to make them more clear.

Marina, age 8

In this portrait of her father, Marina shows that she is almost to the dawning realism stage because her portrait is so specific. She depicts his hair laying flat on his head, his neck, and even includes tiny details such as the nosepads of his glasses and his nostril. His very large eyes and glasses show that Marina is still creating scale in her drawings based on emotional importance. In this case, the effect is to show that her dad is a kind person.

On to Dawning Realism! »