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Lesson Plans

Re:"I don't have art talent"

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Becky Alexander (Bekalex)
Sat, 22 Feb 1997 03:28:51 -0800

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Hi Mark and others,

I always read your posts with much interest as I too am an elementary
teacher (K) and not an art specialist.

When other teachers tell me that they are not artists I simply respond that
perhaps their creativity is exhibited in other areas.

I am one of those who cannot draw well or easily. My fine motor skills are
very poor. Although I got good grades, I could not write legibly until the
7th or 8th grade! Today I have beautiful handwriting but it is quite
stylized. My drawing is the same. I can draw something if I have practiced,
but my creativity cannot come out in a medium with which I am so

In school it was not the teachers who influenced my thinking that I
"couldn't draw." It was my own comparisons of what I saw on my paper with
what I saw on that of the other students. I wanted to draw a reasonable
facsimile and I couldn't. It didn't matter what the teacher said. I wanted
to do it like the others. I couldn't get it that way, no matter what anyone
said. After a lot of practice I might come out with some stylized version.
But that was it. And that, then, was the way I drew "horses," et al.

Today I can draw, but it takes me 4 careful hours to come up with what
someone with more "native talent" can do in 30 sketching minutes. And it
looks like I had a hard time. So stilted and controlled. I have to think so
hard. There are so many decisions. I don't trust my hand. It is not
relaxing! I don't think that you can teach being able to draw easily.

On the other hand design qualities are second nature for me. I easily see
how or where something should go. I can visualize a project (imagination)
and articulate it. I can produce it if it doesn't require much actual

Practice helped. But it never really solved the drawing problem. Except for
perspective, which I did pick up readily, my drawing skills are forever
stuck at about a decent 5th grade level. I have worked around this and used
drawing for placement or outline, a rough draft tool for other projects.
(painting, collage, clay, weaving, jewelry, etc.)

This is very frustrating to me. I had a college art teacher (landscape) who
told the class that there had been only one student in all his teaching
years whom he had not been able to teach to draw. (It wasn't me but he had
pretty loose standards in this area.) (g)

I have had students for whom drawing etc. came quickly and easily even in
Kindergarten! It turns out that their parents are "artistic," (Their words)
studied art in school, etc. I think a great deal of it may be hereditary.

A 13 year-old ex-student now is working with a private teacher as the
school art dept. (for reasons of their own) doesn't want her to take the
normal classes. (She is *exceptionally* talented!) I'm not discussing the
pros or cons of that. I would like to point out that her parents are
artists by their own definition (not directly professional.)

My own heritage does not include many artists in the conventional sense of
the term. We tend toward law, business, and teaching academics. Theater is
one notable exception (lots of community stuff, one professional!) Only one
of 6 kids took art in school (other than drama.) I got into it later. About
3 of us took music lessons etc.

My parents would have been supportive (highly!) of any effort or talent in
any art form. They provided us with whatever we needed to use whatever
talents we had and were interested in developing, from football to
photography, from dance to journalism, from drama to golf, from music to
swimming and tennis. They provided abundant opportunities for exploration.
You name it. We had the opportunity if we wanted! Except for some drama
and music the arts were not explored. (Although many supplies were readily
available at home!)

My daughter ("I can't draw") is an interior decorator. She has more style
and pizazz with home decor and clothes than anyone I have ever seen. She
doesn't understand why her customers/clients can't see how to do what she
does. (I don't think that she could teach them. She could show them the
elements and the principles, but they, like I, would have to think so hard.
She realizes what she has done after the fact. They are trying to
incorporate it as they go. Big difference.)

I am very interested in the inherited aspect of artistic talents and
interests. I have a feeling that there is abundant untapped native talent
in the minority community. How do we value that?

Becky Alexander

>>Comments such as "I am not creative" "I have no artistic ability" or other
>>self depricating comments are much too often heard. This seems to be a
>>pervasive attitude, that can spread like the flu. It saddens me to find
>>people who claim to "have absolutly no talent" and who "can't draw a
>>straight line," especially amongst the staff in the school where I teach.
>>I frequently comment on it in the teacher's room, and have asked them to
>>NOT betray these feelings to their studnts. It is my belief that the
>>teachers these teachers had (art or otherwise) in elementary and high
>>school did not provide opportunities to for take risks and simply to enjoy
>>the journey of drawing and art making. I would like to adjust this
>>attitude for the future generations, starting in my classroom. Are there
>>any ArtsEdNetters who have ideas and suggestions on how to do this? Does
>>anyone have suggestions for what to say to adults who have this attitude
>>problem? Please post to the group. Thanks Lorena, for bringing this
>>important issue up. I am going to change the subject line to read: "I
>>don't have art talent"
>>"If you think you can, you can...if you think you can't, then you can't."
>>Mark Alexander
>>Lee H. Kellogg School
>>Falls Village, CT 06031

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