Teaching Art When Crayon is My Best Medium
- Wednesday, July 02, 2008
I am art challenged. I don’t do well at drawing, painting, sculpting, origami, or underwater basket weaving. But I do appreciate beautiful things. I understand that beauty gives me glimpses of the creative nature of God and the creativity He has given mankind. He could have made the entire world in black and white, but instead He chose to make the ocean thousands of hues of blue and my favorite peony an indescribably beautiful shade of pink.
I deeply want my own children to express themselves and have a chance to unleash their God-instilled creativity. To help them make beautiful art, I’ve had to look past my own fears. I’ve had to rely heavily on others for ideas and ways to teach. I’m learning how to give my children opportunities to create masterpieces (as judged by this very biased mother and author). Slowly, gradually, incrementally, even I have made beautiful art alongside my children.
At the outset, I came to understand that there are several aspects to art. It’s more than just making something out of nothing. Yes, there is the creativity aspect, but art also entails art appreciation (the study of pieces of art and their components), art history (putting art in the context of history), and actual instruction in technique. Any creative endeavor involves inspiration, to be sure, but often it requires effort to the point of perspiration, combined with proper technique.
To accomplish the instruction, I realized that I needed to commit myself to carving out a regular time in our school schedule for art. For several years, art didn’t happen because I didn’t make it a priority. Other years, we’ve devoted one afternoon each week to art. This I say with a lump in my throat, knowing things can get messy as we do art together!
I’ve gradually purchased art supplies, enough to now fill a large kitchen cabinet and two boxes in the basement. Occasionally I must add a specific item to our shopping list for an upcoming project, but for the most part, we have the necessary supplies on hand. Here’s an overview of what fills our art cabinet:
• markers and chalk
• art smocks (Dad’s old dress shirts work well when the sleeves are rolled up.)
• good colored pencils like Prang or Prismacolor
• card stock and construction paper
• tissue, vellum, and tracing papers
• good scissors (kid-sized and adult-sized) and an X-Acto knife for parent’s use
• watercolor and acrylic paints with decent brushes of various sizes
• oversized drawing paper (11” x 14” or larger)
• modeling clay
I mentioned leaning heavily on others’ wisdom to teach art. When my children were young, I began using an art series called Come Look With Me, by Gladys S. Blizzard. These books are meant to be read side-by-side with your child, no teacher preparation (or foreknowledge!) required. The parent reads a short artist biography to the child, looks with the child at a beautiful full-color reprint of a well-known piece of artwork, and then asks the open-ended questions provided by the author. The simple questions deal with the painting’s subject matter, perspective, color, line, and shading. Little by little, my children and I began to learn the vocabulary of an artist.
Parallel to that, we’ve drawn and painted. Using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, we systematically worked our way through two-dimensional and three-dimensional sketches. She suggests using bright colored markers and oversized drawing paper. Though written as a teacher’s overview rather than a lesson-by-lesson curriculum, it was adapted to our home setting, and the results gave all of us something to be proud of. (I’m working on developing a mom-friendly, lesson-by-lesson art curriculum based on our adaptation of her teaching techniques.) Yes, even this art-challenged mom drew alongside her children each week and sometimes surprised herself with her pictures.
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