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Re:[teacherartexchange] Making Art Together

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From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu May 15 2008 - 10:20:18 PDT


Joanna wrote:

>My problem is that I am an artist
>learning how to be a teacher - not the other way around.

This is a very good question well worth thinking about. I believe that successful artist-teachers know how to do things and make things, but art teachers are different from artists that are not teachers. Artists have learned that their artwork speaks for itself and their audience learns from their artwork. However, the viewer of artwork is generally not learning to be an artist. While most artists are teaching through their work, they are not necessarily teaching people to be artists.

Good artists realize that mystery makes their artwork stronger and more evocative. Good art teachers know that mystery is related to curiosity. We all know that evoking curiosity really helps learning.

Artists who are art teachers (as opposed to artists who are not art teachers) know how the value of withholding easy answers from their students (like good artists keeping mystery in their artwork). They know NOT to show their students the answers to common art production problems. Mystery is fun while learning art. They remember to help students set up experiments that help them discover their own answers to their own problems. Discoveries are more fun than being told easy answers while learning art. They have learned to use open questions that reassure students that they can answer their own questions because art has many answers. Teachers also understand how to motivate practice and ways to practice that help students gain skills. Teachers know how to set up practice routines that facilitate internalized learning.

Artists know how to draw, but art teachers know not to draw for their students to show them how to draw. We know not to show drawing formulas to teach actual seeing. We realize that we learn to draw everything when we learn how to observe from reality by learning how artists observe -- not by copying how they draw. Blind contour drawing is a way to practice learning to see better. Producing our own ways to remember (our own formulas) gives us permanent learning.

We learn to draw expressively by learning how artists think, feel, act, practice, and respond expressively to their own feelings -- not from copying another person's expression. Gesture drawing from observation would be an example. Multi-sensory motivation practice under the influence of opposite sensory stimuli would be an example of experiential learning to produce more expressive line character.

Some of the strongest revelations occur during learning moments. Learning moments occur when students feel an urge to learn and there is a means by which to discover it. Teachers and artists both understand this joy of revelation. Teachers understand how to produce mystery and when to withhold knowledge and when not to show something until the student wants to know something. Know this, teachers also know how to create situations so that students become curious and want to know something. Some of my best teachers often teased rather than showing. They often teased rather than answered. They got us curious. Then they gave us experiments by which we could teach ourselves. They gave us practice routines by which to perfect our skills. They knew the value of play in the ability to construct knowledge and skills.

When making art together, students learn the joy of relationships where this fun of mystery and fun of the game extends to learning from each other. Art teachers who have learned to allow knowledge construction by discovery and practice rather than by showing and telling will understand that teams can collaborate best if they learn to understand these ways of natural learning. In a team learning rubric an art teacher will ask for who is the best listener, who is the best at asking good questions, who is the best at drawing out the quiet ones on the team, and who is the best at teasing out the most creativity from others in the group.

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