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If art learning is a sequential process, then I believe the first step is
to develop technical skill. Students need to be able to control the
materials and the best test of that control is realism. Once they have
developed an understanding of the "rules" then they can begin to break
them. At this point they can truly appreciate the work of Picasso and the
other modern artists. Beginning students shouldn't copy from other artists
work because that's all many of them want to do. Once they have been
weaned away from Nike symbols and comic book characters and learned to
"copy" from nature, they can more effectively explore the distinction
between copying and working in the style of...
My point is not so much a specific way things should be done, but rather
that we must question ourselves as to whether we are teaching the right
concepts at the right time.
On the subject of competitions, I work in a district where we have an
annual show in which the middle schools compete against each other and the
high schools have their own competitive show. At first, I was concerned
about the value of this type of competition. I soon discovered a
competitive side of myself and as a result, my teaching has improved. I
have struggled to find the most effective ways to have all students
successfully produce "show quality" work without forcing one style or
method on them and continuing to encourage individual style. In many ways,
I teach to the show. I continually question myself and try to ensure that
all students are proud of their work, even if they don't have pieces
ultimately make it in the show.
I think I have digressed, since I wanted to comment on the judging.
Because I teach technical skill first and then encourage them to extend
beyond that, I want that in judges. I want the judges to choose those
pieces that are exciting, original, and well-made. I don't like it when
those "happy accidents" beat out work that is solidly grounded in