A class full of young budding artist eagerly anticipating the opportunity to be awed and inspired by the teachers creative and artistic prowess can strike fear into the heart of the most confident art teacher. Although art has taken up a big part of my heart and soul since I was a small child, being an artist doesn’t always properly prepare a person to teach art. I found that fact out rather suddenly, like when I was asked to fill in at a local Christian school who had lost their art teacher and desperately needed someone to fill in. My degree in the Fine Arts has helped me in my journey as an artist, but my students thought it meant that I knew everything about art and could identify any and all objects of art and their significance throughout history of the known universe. I had to do some rather quick brushing up!
Working as an artist, the subject of art seems to always come up while visiting with people and clients. All too often I hear sad art stories and have learned that a bad experience in a class setting can turn a child off to art, and often it is for the rest of his or her life. I didn’t want that experience for these kiddos. They were so excited to learn about art, I wanted to encourage that attitude, build that creative fire, and not be the one to squelch it or smoother it out. The opportunity to encourage their creative spirit and not hurt their artistic confidence was a tight rope balancing act, that I took very seriously. This made me a nervous wreck!
One day I just thought to myself, art should be fun, and it would do nobody any good if I was worried about every little thing, so I decided to just be my quirky self and let the paint splatter where it will. All I could do is provide an interesting art space, come prepared with everything needed for the days art projects, have lots of interesting facts and stories that will grab and hold their attention, and always have an art game under my sleeve just in case of an emergency. This short teaching experience gave me a chance to realize that I enjoyed teaching, as well as the chance to learn more about the level of skills that children have at different ages. The reward is when you see a child finish a project that they are excited about and proud off.
I learn best from observing something being done and then trying it out myself. Even though Bob Ross made painting look effortless and easy, I had to watch and learn. I could see exactly how he held the brush, how it dabbed it into the paint, how he blended etc. Watching him paint helped me to understand that painting wasn’t some amazing mystery that magically happened, or only for those whom God in heaven deemed worthy of some special gift. With practice, I could learn too! I was inspired to paint by Bob Ross’s willingness to guide the viewer though the entire process, mistakes and all. I try to keep my art lessons a bit like a Bob Ross episode.
I start my lessons off with a cup of tea or cocoa and a snack, nothing sparks creativity quite like a cup of cocoa. For about 15 min we play a warm- up art game, where I can sneak in a little art history or introduce various styles of art or sculpture as well as artist and art periods. Sometimes we do a sketching exercise or work on a warmup project that they complete a little every time they come. I try to encourage creativity and imagination by having a creative environment to explore and find things that are interesting or displayed in an unusual way.
The Art Room is an artist’s version of Where’s Waldo. A game of I spy with my artist’s eye is always a fun time when the kids will discover something they hadn’t seen before. This little game also gives me an opportunity to draw attention to an interesting juxtaposition of objects. Then we imagine what story those objects could tell. This is great practice for interpreting artwork that we are learning about. The remainder of the time is spent on the primary project which could be a drawing, painting or sculpture. I use the Bob Ross’s method, so I can guide them through the process. They can see step by step what I am doing while I explain all the reasonings while they work on their own piece. I try to always remind the kiddos that Miss Lizzies way of painting or drawing is only one way, but there are many different ways. I just try to teach the basic techniques, like tools in a tool belt, that they can collect their tools and go out and build what ever they can imagine or dream up.
There are four main things I stress to my kiddos as often as I can. 1. Art is just like any sport or activity. The more practice and time you devote to it, the better you will become. 2. You can never make art that will please everyone. Art is different to everyone and is subject to everybody’s likes and dislikes. All we need to do as artist is to nurture our imagination and allow ourselves the freedom to be creative, create art that pleases you. 3. To keep learning and trying new things, don’t let fear of failing or making a mistake keep you from creating art. 4. Let creative thinking be a part of your everyday life, set aside a time for art in your weekly routine.
I know that all my students may not choose a career in art, my hope is that I have encouraged them to pursue a spirit of creativity and imagination that will benefit them in whatever profession they choose, but mostly to keep an appreciation of art and a love of creating, close to their heart and soul for the rest of their lives.