Magazine article School Arts

Comparing Sources of Content in Children's Art

Magazine article School Arts

Comparing Sources of Content in Children's Art

Article excerpt

Influenced by Herbert Read's 1943 classic, Education Through Art, I have developed my own art programs in keeping with his personal dictum, " I shall proceed to an examination of the basic mental processes involved in art and education alike--perception and imagination."

I teach small, private group art lessons to more than thirty-five students each week. I develop programs that cater to my art students' individualized needs and interests. I also cater to my own desire to discover more about the subjective process of art-making, and how instruction influences the natural stages of artistic development.

Each class meets attired in practical "art clothes" for two hours each week. We explore a range of finearts materials, techniques, and approaches appropriate to the students' interests and developmental levels.

Inner and Outer Sources of Content

My emphasis is on developing life-drawing skills, gently expanding the students' awareness of how to see and how to draw. Being aware and respectful of the natural stages of development in student's art, and the natural tendency to want to master new skills, I teach even my youngest students to draw from life, while also encouraging them to use their imagination. By "life," I mean both nature and photographs of nature. By "imagination," I mean memory, fantasy, and design.

Recently, I asked a group of seven-year-old girls which they preferred: working from imagination or working from life. I found their answers articulate and helpful for me to focus on my priority as an art teacher: to create the technical skills necessary to be fluid and at home with visual expression, while not inhibiting the natural human impulse to draw.

In Their Own Words

"Working from a photo is easier, because picturing in your mind you can't really see it," says Penelope. Mina disagrees, "I like imagination better, because let's say you were doing a dragon and you messed up, you wouldn't have to do just that, you can turn it into something."

Working from life stabilizes the image. If you wonder how to draw something, you look and see. The answers are all there. But what if what you want to draw doesn't exist? What if it's not so easy to draw what you see? With a little imagination, reality can be adjusted to your interests and skills.

Jhana likes both, "I like working from life or photos a lot better in a certain way because you can see the shape, but it's hard if you pick too hard an object to draw from. But I like imagination too because it's funner and you can do anything you want, and it's really fun."

Brittany agrees with Jhana, "I like both because with imagination you can just find anything that you want to do, just anything. …

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