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Re: perspective for 5th grade and beyond


From: Mark Alexander (markcalexander_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Feb 09 2003 - 04:33:06 PST

I'm just catching up on this thread. I start teaching perspective early...but I consider it 'stealth style' teaching. Without even discussing space in the third grade I ask them to try cool colors in the background. Never going into space, I ask fourth graders to draw a horizon line. In the fifth grade I ask them to draw a big person low on the page and smaller people higher on the page. In the sixth grade I ask them to notice space in life, art and create it by combining some of the above in their work. By the seventh and eighth grades many, but not most, seem to be ready to begin understanding linear perspective. I'm quite content to let it go at long as they try to follow the instructions.
My first born son 'got it' early. As a pre-schooler, he intuitively drew in perspective. I have saved lots of them, and my favorite drawings are three-quarter views of the barn out in back of our house, and a telephone. An especially precious one is a three-quarter view of a volkswagen bug showing the appropriate three wheels, but the bug has iconographic casement windows and a door drawn as one might expect to see on a house. He's 21 now and has become quite a good observational drawer.
A while ago I asked my fourth grade students (they're in 7th now) to draw a picture of the front of the school from memory. One boy drew it from the point of view from the top of the flag pole. Of course he had never seen the school from that angle, but he was able to visualize what it would look like from up there, and he succeeded in drawing what he had visualized. Now, as a seventh grader, this boy is having a great time with linear perspective (but he has a hard time actually turning in assignments to me and to other teachers).
Like Bunky, I get a kick out of who 'gets it' and who doesn't. It isn't predictable and I find I must be cautious of the detrimental pygmalion effect. I frequently find I have students who have a marvelous inate ability with color, line quality, balance and design....but they don't understand nor care about perspective. Not 'getting it' often does not mean they're stupid or that they're not trying, and my preconceived notions about their abilities should be left out of the equation. Development is one issue. Are their thinking skills ready to grasp the concept? Some get it early, some get it late, and some never get it. We have to be careful to avoid causing 'art trauma,' or they may just give up investigating for the rest of their lives.
The fact that different people have many different intelligence styles, as in Gardner's multiple intelligences, tells me that my job is to frequently expose them to the concept, not to pound the concept into their heads. If I can honestly say I did my best to effectively teach the concept, (and sometimes I can be hard on myself around this), then I don't worry about mastery and application of perspective skills.
Lots of artists of the world , maybe even most, never use perspective as we know it. Remember how important perspective is or was to traditional Japanese artists, and to Marc Chagall, Willem deKooning and to Grandma Moses.
I've had fun thinking about this. Thanks...whoever brought it up.
Peace, Mark

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