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21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

The process of art

Young children ‘do’ art for the experience, the exploration, the experimentation and of course the enjoyment.  In the process of completing their work they discover mystery, creativity, joy, and at times even frustration and challenge. I feel these factors all make art and creativity for young children a really vital and essential aspect of any early childhood programme, and one that we certainly nurture carefully and thoughtfully at Mairtown.

Art is a learning tool we use frequently at Mairtown, and I believe it’s important to remember that children should be encouraged to be independent in their artistic processes rather than striving for a finished product. With this in mind, when I introduced the children to a type of art - painting on wood and later layering these painted colours with PVA glue and gold and silver pens – it was the process that was in my mind. However, the added benefit of this process is that the product has turned out to be incredibly beautiful.

The first step in this process was for each child to choose a piece of wood. They then painted the wood in sections of bold colours. Next came the difficult bit, we had to wait for it to dry! When dry I invited the children back to revisit their painting and we talked about carefully adding PVA glue in black, silver and/or gold (next came the hard part again – more waiting as it dried). The third step was to create finer more intricate details and patterns with the addition of gold and silver pens.

In the photos below the children are adding the PVA. This was quite challenging at times; squeezing the bottle as well as moving it to create a line requires a lot of fine motor skill and concentration.

Author and artist Mark Wagner who heavily promotes creativity and art within education talks about how ‘Art Develops the Whole Brain.’ Mark suggests ‘Art strengthens focus and increases attention, it develops hand-eye coordination, whilst also requiring practice and strategic thinking, and finally involves interacting with the material world through different tools and art mediums.’

Although the creation of these art pieces looks like a three step process, I really wanted to encourage the children to take time with their work. Often the children thought they were finished, but would choose to revisit it again a little later or on the next day, adding an extra layer of PVA or pen. The whole process was about taking time and having the option to keep on revisiting, reflecting and adding on.

When children are able and invited to revisit their work over time, they are able to view it though a different lens.; for instance, what can I add to enhance my work? What does it mean to me? Am I finished? It is when they see it from a different perspective that they may then decide to add to it or change it.

When children re-visit their work they become better observers, become more aware of their own thinking processes, develop dispositions of good thinking and become more critical and able to expand their expressive repertoire (Salmon, 2007).

My role as the teacher in this work was to support and encourage, to ‘slow down’ children’s thinking at times, so they could process their thoughts and then transfer these into their work. I really wanted to emphasise the importance of lingering for children – of not rushing to get to the end – but of reassuring them that this will still be available in half an hour or tomorrow; to assist the children in becoming fully immersed in their work in a relaxed and thoughtful manner.

Although many of the children used Hundertwasser art work for inspiration, the real creating must of course belong to each child. It is in the making of these creations that children gain value from their work. These art pieces demonstrate each child’s process; they demonstrate each child’s ideas and imagination as they reflect on past and present experiences, and for us, these pieces give us a little insight into each child’s expression of the world.

Mia gave some very clear instructions on how this art should be done ‘I’ll tell you what you need to make one of these, we need a silver and golden pen and some glue and wood and paint and a book to look at. The book is to give you ideas and if you haven’t got your own ideas you can use some of the ideas from the book. I had my own ideas but I did use a few from the book. You have to be patient to do this, like wait for the next day, you must wait and then do a little more till you are all done.’

Many teachers talk about process art versus product, but I think it’s clear from the children’s work here you can engage in process art yet still have stunning outcomes.  Process art is about art being open to children, of having no expectations, of children doing, of them experimenting with materials and ideas and of them discovering, exploring and wandering. This is certainly evident in each of these unique pieces.

After many many days of work, finally the children each, one by one, and only when they were ready, began to announce they had finished. As the children had worked over several days to complete their work we had had plenty of opportunities to discuss how artists give a name to their pieces and how many artists also choose to tell a story through their work. It was at this point then, that I asked each child if their art work had a story to tell, and if they would like to name their work.

A collection of the work together

Here are some of the finished pieces with the stories – a real insight into how art can enhance imagination.

“Art can bring imagination to life and give life to imagination” Dogra 2010

Sam: My one looks like a house and there are shooting stars. The moon looks like a pancake and I’ve added a little rocket and this is a moon house. My picture is called ‘Rocket’ and I’ve added another planet, that’s Saturn and Mars. There’s an astronaut and the house in space has rocket boosters, even the rocket houses can crash into stars. Here’s Jupiter and here’s Uranus.

Sienna: I just made the ideas up, may be it’s taken me like 4 or 5 days. It reminds me of a rainbow, but that little bit there reminds me of a beach. I’m just going to call it ‘Rainbow’.

Amaya: First I did the lines in paint then I do the dots, mines called spider web. No, no it minds me of a mountain. I’m going to call it ‘Mountain’ cause its like mountains exploded. I haven’t seen one explode but I watched a cano explode before on the TV and it looked like my picture.

Milla: It’s all dry now. First we did paint in blue and purple then I did the bubbles in silver and I did the H’s shiny gold. The picture has a special name it’s called ‘Our House’. There are bubbles that fly up high in the sky and the dots live outside our house.

Ahmad: I love it. I show it to my mum and dad and they be proud of me and I’m show it to my friends.

Emma: I did the painting and then I did the glue and then the silver and golden pens and then I waited for it to dry and I really like the look of it. It’s going to be called the ‘The World of Planets’ cause this is planets and this is a desert planet.

Sadie: First we did painting, then we did PVA’s then I did the silver pens and gold. I used the book for ideas. Mines called ‘The Alien Planet’ but now we have to wait and wait for it to dry.

Sharlotte: These flowers are the garden – my garden and the school garden – my new school. The blue is the sky and it’s a rainbowy day. I’m going to call it ‘Rainbow flower’.

Ruby: It kind of reminds me of Hundertwasser. I’m calling mine ‘Rainbow’…there is a story, cause this picture shows where the kids sleep and waking up they saw a rainbow and then they saw the sun with gold and then the mummy and daddy woke up and said ‘Go back to sleep cause it’s not morning time’. So they went back to sleep and saw dots in their room and they they woke up again and played.

Ruben: Those look like swimming pool and the water of the swimming pool and these are the stories in the water. I’ll call mine ‘Swimming Pool’.

“There is more to art than just drawing a picture that looks like something. The process of creating a piece of art is precious, especially when you make something relevant and make a bold, personal and contemporary statement” Source unknown

Mia -'Artist's Picture'.

Mia and Emma both reflect on their learning. Mia discusses how each piece although created in a similar manner, looks very different. None of them looked the same cause if they looked the same it looks like someone’s done all of them the same and then they don’t look nice together as they’d all be the same. They look nicer when they’re all different. I’ve learnt if you don’t be patient it will smudge as it isn’t dry yet, you have to be patient over several days. This is my work for over days.  Whilst Emma tells me I’ve learnt that I think you have to think quietly and that it takes lots of days to do this.

Children need to be submersed in rich artist experiences and given time to revisit and create at their own pace. When you follow the children’s lead – as you can see here – you will go to some wonderful places :)

Until next time,

These art pieces will on display for a few weeks from 12th September in the Whangarei Central Library as part of their 'A Big Day in at the Library'. If you live in Whangarei we'd love you to visit and tell us what you think.

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