I start early on with conversation about what art is. I think once
you establish a definition that everyone can live with, you take it from
there. Next, before they make any art in my class we go through a
process which includes a thesis statement (what are you trying to say
with your art? How do you want the viewer to react to your art? What
techniques are you going to use?), and then the student must give me 5
thumbnail sketches towards that goal. Included in the assignment are
vocabulary words, and concepts that I am trying to have them achieve.
For example, my drawing and painting class is working on a drawing that
must have all 10 values, perspective, overlapping and repitition. It
must be based on observation. These students have already accepted the
design principals (which they have learned in their first art class),
understand that their work must have a thesis statement, and are
currently working on thumbnails. All of the work in the class is
original, and in fact, an outsider to the room would not recognize all
24 projects as being from the same assignment.
At the conclusion of the work, we have a general critique. Students
evaluate each other's work based on a list of criteria, including time
spent, thesis statement met, originality, use of materials, etc.
Once you approach the making of art as if students were indeed
artists, they start to think like artists, and less like observers of
art. I have found the observers to be complacent, and eager to accept
what is, while as the artist relishes the opportunity to explain,
define,and present what they think it is.