So the quandary is do you get the kids to do it your way? I saw the best art lesson ever as a beginning teacher in Marie Hickey’s class. She had a chair on a table in the middle of the room and the kids were all at their own desks around it and she talked about what she could see, she talked about the shapes, the negative shapes, the angles when the lines met… she talked the whole way through the art lesson. I was skeptical then I saw the kids pictures. They had looked, really looked, and their art reflected this. It was not about the product, the pictures never went up, they were on newsprint with whatever pencil or pen the kids had chosen… This was of course an art lesson with an object in mind, it wasn’t the kids communicating by showing a picture of their family going on holiday, flying kites etc. There are many ways of doing visual art – the imaginative pictorial language that kids all seem to invent for themselves, you’ve probably seen the horse in profile but never face on! the beautifully counted five fingers all carefully drawn on etc. Then there is the expression of other ideas/experimentation be it texture, enclosure (where you cover the paper often over and over with paint), playing with colour mixing etc. There is also the stuff Helena is big on, some kind of visual thought processes – abstract ideas/compositions of some kind of mathematical idea? Abstracts…. Then there is the figurative art getting it looking like the thing – the stuff that usually requires an act of teaching to facilitate, that really looking stuff. We ‘teach’ what notes are what on a musical score – they are tools. Figurative art is the stuff that means kids often give up art at a certain age and where “I can’t draw” comes from, where what they see in their minds eye doesn’t show on the paper. It is what I want to avoid with Helena as she has always been really big on visual language – signs, letters, making a mark, telling a story… Her abstracts are better than mine will ever be as she is not stilted by what things “should” be like. In the course of teaching I have also seen really bad lessons where the teacher (who loved art and could rattle of names of artists, famous paintings she’d seen etc) finished the kids work for them so as it would LOOK GOOD. I’ve seen kids do work that I’d love to have done but who stopped art, didn’t like their pictures because it didn’t conform to some idea in their head. I went to art school, not a good art school but one that felt that everyone could and should do art. It didn’t work for me as I am far to nerdy to believe that and need RIGOR and deadlines and the possibility of failure to pull finger. The lessons there weren’t as good as the one I saw Marie do, neither perhaps were the results.. it was a bit airy fairy.
Back to my quandary. This is how this morning went. Helena is doing a canvas for her brother, a painting, and I suggested using dye – this was apparently a good idea. I say she could use crayons for a resist “I want to do it my way” ” I get to do it my way”.. I was just encouraging her to try to have layers, that her project could be done with different media so that you could get more details. This was NOT ON. I have brought her a book to draw in and for us go through a book on drawing that I found – so that I wouldn’t be the teacher as I already know that any attempt to teach/instruct Helena meets with a hand in the face. We did see some art on the windows of a local school that was very similar to each other and was using one point perspective which Helena then saw in real life so she has been thinking about kids getting instruction in art and the instruction being based in real life.
The canvas was just the starter then we rolled out some wallpaper and of course then we had to draw round her…… and she continued her previous interest in anatomy.
That’s her brain – a brain of colour….
Then her friends arrived and Mr I don’t paint/draw painted his with his feet (you have to find some way in, to let them loose and give it a go) and Helena got help with hers, and drew her friend’s brain of colour, and the project changed.
Then things got all playcentre – there was “car” racing, which were actually drips of dye racing down the other side of the painted wallpaper… oh and painting on the wall with ones hands as brushes…
I don’t think the birthday canvas is finished – its her and her brother flying kites on a hill with trees on the background. Excellent composition. There is dye, crayon and paint on it and she is contemplating using pen for her eyes! “… I guess I’ll do it your way..”. I had a vague learning objective about layering, about coming back to a piece of work?, about choosing the medium for the job? but it was the wrong time.