Sure, drawings by kids are great, but have you seen people with hands that look like gardening rakes?
There are no words to describe how much I love Onfim’s drawings! Also called Anthemius of Novgorod, Onfim was a little boy estimated to be six or seven years old when he made these delightful scenes.
Onfim lived in the 1260s in Russia and had a teacher or tutor who gave him assignments. He used soft birch bark, which was basically like paper for the people of the region – plentiful and easy to make marks on.
What I love about these drawings is how uniquely Onfim drew people (in my limited experience looking at children’s artwork, anyway). Some things to notice:
- aforementioned gardening rake hands
- sassy eyebrows
- mouths and noses are an upside down T shape
- people with large, round necks – maybe representing heavy scarves or coats?
- people’s bodies aren’t closed shapes – the outline of the body ends in feet, with no horizontal lines to distinguish the torso
- The Art of Onfim: Medieval Novgorod Through the Eyes of a Child
- Catalog (in Russian) of all birch bark finds – they used Onfim’s art above the site’s footer : )
- Look up Jos Schaeken, Professor of Slavic and Baltic languages and cultural history at Leiden University – I don’t think much of his work is in English (yet), mostly Dutch, German, and Russian.