Every year we enter into a special ritual of completing art work for calendars, that can be purchased by whānau (and make especially lovely Christmas presents). This is a lovely time at Mairtown, and one that I really look forward to.
In today’s world, there is so much emphasis reported on the quality of education, that many teachers may conclude that concentrating on art-related activities in the curriculum is unnecessary as well as too time consuming. There too are others, who see art as a break from the ‘important’ things that children need to learn. At Mairtown we engage in the arts daily, we recognise it as an extremely valuable aspect of our programme planning. We don’t see art as a 'rainy day' activity or set our children up to create art pieces that all look the same and follow the same process, instead we cherish the arts. When we offer children creative art experiences, we provide good quality resources and support children as they begin their learning in the arts so they are successful, competent and proud of their efforts and creations.
Whilst art is fun, creative, relaxing and imaginative it also can provide so much more for children. I see art as an additional means of communication for children and I have also observed how completing art can drive understanding in our curriculum, enabling children to construct their own knowledge, gain an appreciation for diversity, foster imagination and critical thinking skills, encourage storytelling whilst allowing children to openly express and share personal experiences.
We engage in art all year round, every day at Mairtown, but one of the reasons I particularly love supporting children, as they complete their calendar art works, is that I get to work with every child, one-on-one. I get to experience along with the children the wonder of looking and studying an artist – this year we used a favourite of ours, Hundertwasser – of engaging in the social aspect of looking closely, the in-depth conversations that take place, and then the sense of pride that is always so evident as children create, over several days, a piece of stunning art that is truly unique and reflective of that individual child.
One of the reasons we regularly use Hundertwasser, apart from the connection he has to the town of Whangarei (see here) , is his wonderful use of line and colour. Hundertwasser’s works are bright, colourful and inspiring. When I begin these art pieces with the children, we always begin by sitting and browsing through some of Hundertwasser’s creations in the many books we have. Invariably each child will be drawn to a particular piece, which we then focus our attention on; we look closely, we wonder about the story behind the picture, we dream and we imagine. When it comes to creating their own art pieces, staring at a white, blank piece of paper can be extremely daunting for many; I know as an adult that it is overwhelming as you wonder where and how to start. Questions go through your head such as ‘Will I be good enough?’, ‘What if I make a mistake?, ‘Will it turn out how I want it to?’, which is why I encourage all the children I work with to think like an artist.
Artists often take risks with their work since more will be gained by taking a risk than not. We expose ourselves to risk any time we begin a work of art (Mulcahey, 2009).
As a teacher, I see my role as one of support and I take time to reassure each child that has these concerns, especially those that are new to art. As I talk about thinking like an artist I share with children how creating art is risky, and that risk is a good thing. If you make a mistake, that’s ok, think like an artist and wonder what you can do next, what can your mistake become in your picture, it's ok to change your mind half way through your work, there is no right or wrong way to begin or to finish, and although art can sometimes be frustrating to make, you learn many things about yourself in the process. Thankfully young children listen to these concepts freely and willingly, they are non-judgemental and can happily keep an open mind about their art. Many of these stunning pieces I am sharing today started off as one thing, only to change into something else, and at times something else again, as the children’s drawing and/or painting progressed.
‘Children’s interest in making art is increased if adults encourage them to talk about art and artists – who artists are and how they make things.’ (Douglas, Schwartz and Taylor, 1981)
"As a child I dew like Raphael but it has taken me a lifetime to draw like a child." Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1873).
|Lolly Pop Garden|
I hope you have enjoyed reading just a small aspect of the wonder of art. I urge anyone reading to take time to explore the world of art with children. Listen to the children’s stories, follow their cues and their infectious enthusiasm; listen carefully, the children are the experts.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see” Edgar Degas
Hei konā mai,