The question really should perhaps not be around the actual age of the artist but whether that artist’s work can be measured against the works of older, established artists, who have “paid their dues” so to speak and still withstand scrutiny.
Criteria of excellence have not changed much throughout the years. The color wheel, for instance, has remained constant – the same colors that existed in the 12th Century exist today. The artist’s use of color then is to be judged the same way as it has always been judged: Do the colors blend, match or contrast well and has the child used this medium effectively to transmit the message? Has he used color judiciously and with a deep understanding of tone and contrast, highlight and shade, transparency and opacity? Is he cognizant of the whole range of colors? Does he know the difference between “hot” and “cold?” Does he know his color wheel well and exploit is characteristics with optimum effect and efficiency? Or is his use of this medium limited? If so, can the painting stand on its own as a powerful work without the use of color (i.e., Does it work in black and white as well?) This is where the strength of the composition can be measured.
The same questions need to be asked as are asked of a more experienced artist. Is his sense of composition sufficiently advanced or remarkable that will pit him favorably against older more seasoned competitors?
Is he a Tiger Woods of the Art World, able to compete readily in a highly competitive environment and, unlike the golfing arena, an environment which is known to be extremely fickle and fashion-driven. One minute you’re hot, the next you’re not. has he placed elements correctly and is his sense of perspective accurate – all these are tried and tested rules which were put in place centuries ago and provide the standard against which all great art should ultimately be measured. As with great musicians – they all knew what the rules were before they broke them successfully, so it should be with young artists – they should show that they know what the rules are first.
Without this basic knowledge, their art-making will not be able to grow and expand. At some stage in their future careers, they will be aware that they fall short of the ideal as created in the past. Merely crediting artwork that is produced by young people simply because they are young, without regard to the actual worth, talent, and quality of the work itself is inviting ridicule.
Recognition within their schools, of course, is perfectly acceptable. However, more public recognition than that should be granted only if their particular talent is truly extraordinary.
Following the correct channels with regard to due process is important when nurturing talent. Simply exposing a child’s work to the public could draw potentially adverse criticism which could damage that budding talent, putting him off art forever, or, conversely, if the praise is too high, give him an inflated idea of his ability. Young children, generally, are not equipped psychologically to handle either high praise or damning criticism.
Just because a young person is good at debating law at school does not qualify him to be a judge in a high court. Similarly, just because a school-going child shows artistic talent should not automatically qualify him or her to take a space in a prestigious gallery usually reserved for established well-paid artists.
Obviously, there are exceptions. Charlotte Church, at the age of 12 showed herself to have an extraordinary talent, gifted as she is with a voice of someone twice her age. Public recognition naturally comes to such people who can compete successfully in a world arena against other masters of the craft, regardless of age.