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Lesson Plans

kids as artists

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Wed, 15 May 1996 21:28:36 -0500 (CDT)

Thank you, Dave and Henry for some wonderful comments on "kids as artists". =
My friend and I were discussing this issue the other day and decided that=
the question of "repeatability" is central to this dilemma. Was the=
"masterpiece" a serendipitous happenstance, or can the child repeat the=
accomplishment on a regular basis. (Not that any great artist "cranks it=
out", but they are capable of producing quality work on more than one=
occasion. They can draw well all the time, or create good compositions or=
use color expressively, etc.) It's not the whole answer, but one of the=
qualities necessary to be termed a "prodigy". I was just discussing with=
someone why there are few if any art prodigies when music prodigies crop up=
pretty regularly. There was the little Chinese (Japanese?) girl who toured=
the U.S. a couple of years ago and now this girl who does cubism. In=
music, we use the term to describe a young person who plays an instrument=
at a level far beyond their years - or, like Mozart, one who composes on an=
adult level. In either case, however, we are judging them on a=
pre-existing, established standard. We confer this designation on a child=
who performs LIKE AN ADULT in a TRADITIONAL or accepted mode. Even the two=
visual "prodigies" cited above are deemed talented because they create=
visual images in a previously accepted style.=20I guess my point is, if=
Jackson Pollack had spattered his paint at age 5, before action painting or=
abstract expressionism were accepted genres, would we have recognized him=
as a prodigy? Would we even use that term to describe a 5-year-old paint=
spatterer today? Or would we reserve the term for a kid who could draw=
realistically? In 25 years of teaching, I have seen some truly talented=
youngsters. A first grade girl who drew a wonderful procession of=
Egyptians marching across her portfolio cover. A first grade boy who=
brought in a sketch he had made of his two dogs sleeping on a rug. A=
kindergartener who drew a puddle complete with reflections. In these=
earliest years, I always question whether these wonderful powers of=
observation are indicative of future artistic ability or intelligence. I=
also have students who have an instinctive ability to compose or a=
wonderful color sense. Then there are the students who have been with me=
for years who suddenly "blossom" in grade seven or eight. What I tend to=
look for in all these kids is what I call an artistic "spirit": a=
dedication to the craft, a constant need to "do" art, a seriousness about=
class projects. The kids who love art, but who aren't just out for a good=
time. Kids who "think" art. Interestingly, they don't always produce the=
"best" projects every time, because they are willing to take risks and they=
don't always succeed. (Looking at their work, people probably wonder why=
these children get such high grades from me.) I don't honestly know at=
what age we can start calling a kid an "artist", but I think these are the=
ones with the best chance to someday earn the title.

Eileen Prince
Sycamore School