Teaching art is not an abstract. There are abstract elements to
it, but there are also concrete elements to a good art program.
The basic concrete elements of an overall well rounded art program
are as follows:
An understanding of the vocabulary of the arts. These vocabulary
words should be interspersed in every lesson.
An appreciation of great works of art throughout the ages.
Each lesson should contain at least a review of a master work
An experiencing of the various media of art. Children should
be exposed to a wide variety of media.
The abstract elements are as follows:
Students should be taught problem solving skills. Creativity
needs to be encouraged. The student needs to understand that
"art" is not in the hand but in the head. Younger
students especially need to hear that their ability to put something
on paper is not the important thing. Their abilities and their
fine motor skills will develop over time. Their art technology
will continue to advance from finger painting to crayon drawing
to pencil to ink to paint all the way through sculpting, photography,
computer art, video etc. Their ideas may be in computer graphics,
but their technology may be in pencil. Real art takes place
in their imaginations.
A positive self image should be maintained. A good art project
is a great self confidence builder. It is the teacher's job
to find positive elements.
Many people believe that teaching art to younger children is simply
allowing them to copy a model picture. With this approach fine motor
skills only are developed. Children may all cut out similar shapes
and put them all together in identical ways. The finished product
looks exactly like the sample project. This is, in my opinion, the
wrong way to teach art. When all projects look exactly alike when
the lesson is finished, this is an unsuccessful lesson. When children
have the freedom to take the concepts and the stimulating project
idea and express themselves in a way that it is part of their very
soul, that is a good art lesson and a great self concept builder.
Older students need to look at master works of art and learn techniques
from them. They should experience a sampling of a variety of media,
but be encouraged to find one in which they can excel. Funds should
be allotted to purchase higher quality art supplies in their chosen
medium, so they can achieve a professional finished project. Some
younger students have even been able to sell their work.
The limits we place on children in art are the limits that we ourselves
set for them. The teacher should always encourage them to excels
beyond what the teacher's model looks like. I was teaching a lesson
on seascapes, and we were making a three dimensional sea captain
out of a paper towel roll. We looked at seascapes by Winslow Homer
and Washington Allston and talked about a one dimensional and three
dimensional work of art. I had a sample sea captain I had made out
of a paper towel roll. The children were given towel rolls, construction
paper, scissors, glue, yarn, etc. I had one young student turn his
sea captain into a telescope. In the telescope was a seascape. That
is a wonderful lesson.
For older students wanting to draw, lessons in shading, shadow
and texture should be emphasized. My husband does a great lesson
on drawing the hand emphasizing observation skills. We show the
fingers touching in the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo, Praying
Hands by Durer, and hands by M. C. Escher. We encourage creativity.
It is amazing what happens when children understand how the master
artists achieved such success in rendering hands.
By combining the concrete elements I've suggested and nurturing
each child's creative expression you, too, will have fun and times
when your children will amaze you.