I routinely give my students my ole "Pond Scum" talk...and just did so with
my 8th graders this past week. I have them building low relief plates with
cardboard, tape and yarn for inking and printing "designs"...
...they are lazy lazy lazy kids. "Minimal mundane mediocrity" is their
I think when you teach k-12 you feel you have an easier time bringing kids
where you want them...and I am. This group too, I incorporated the 15
minutes of reading from "Art Talk" at the beginning of the period coupled
with taking notes for chapter tests to re-focus them from the foolishness of
the day to one of earning the right to make art. They are thus getting a
sense I want that art is a language. Sure, okay...suns in the corner might
be crude attempts of art...but as a language it fails to communicate in
proper artistic grammatical construct.
So long as you stick to the idea that you are emphatic about teach this
"language" of art...you are on top of any potential objections.
...but, okay...I gave 'em the pond scum talk and it goes like this.
I had a design professor who would give us projects in college to work in
small groups. He would require ten thumbnail sketches, ALL DIFFERENT...from
us with our names on them, and then announce that we would not be able to do
ANY of the ones we drew.
When a person is thirsty...kneeling down near a potential cool pond of water
to draw water from (cupping one's hand) you do not take what water is
available at the ready. There...on the surface is a stagnant growing algae,
secretions of oils from leaves released to float on top, bugs....a stench,
you name it. Ideas and creative thoughts are often like that. Sitting at
the ready of any first notion to use them.
To get the really good, life providing fresh water that sustains life, one
has to use their hand in a back and forth manner to push surface water away
thereby making available water beneath to drink.
Collecting first ideas and making them unavailable to be used is like this
swishing away of bad water. At this point we require the creative mind to
really engage to come up with some good things.
What has happened as my students do these thumbnails, is one at a time they
are bringing them to me...and I am pointing out the merits of some of their
designs and the weaknesses of others. A chance to talk about negative
space, formal or informal balance and so forth.
AT the youngest ages...one can address art as a visual language. Let the
student understand that the mature most successful novelist uses the same
alphabet as the kindergartner, but having become aware of the "language" and
its grammatical rules allows the passion of the creative soul within to take
it to another level.
Sure...you drew a sun in the corner. Okay...that's like anyone writing some
letters of the alphabet on paper and thinking its time to approach a
publisher. "Yes you drew something, and congratulations on that...but, it
is not called "art" yet and I'm here to help you begin to understand this