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  • Writer's pictureJason Blair

2017 That’s it?

This year, the students have engaged in various activities along the way to dig deeper with their ideas and learn about some of the tools and materials we have in the art room. Each art class brings new challenges, problems and questions. It is always exciting to see where their creative minds take them. They are currently finishing their artworks and are writing short artist statements to explain their thinking as well.

One of the important things to keep in mind when looking at your child’s artwork, especially at the beginning of the year, is what it actually represents. A brilliant colleague stated that an artwork, is much like a souvenir from a great trip. I love this metaphor. Your child’s artwork is a small representation of a much larger, learning journey. Complete with highs and lows, success and failure, “ah-ha’s” and “uh-oh’s,” each and every step of the journey is an essential part of the learning process. The finished artwork represents an idea that was created by the child, but it also represents a learning process that is not always visible to those who only get to see the finished product. A child’s artwork is a meaningful souvenir that represents learning, reflecting and growing.

At the beginning of the year, many of the students are eager to get the tools out and use as many materials as possible. It takes some time slowing down to think carefully about the intent and purpose of an idea. It can be hard, to spend time thinking about ideas when you are surrounded by so many inspiring tools and materials. Some students spend several classes experimenting with tools and materials that lead to new ideas and new challenges. Ideas can change and grow with each new class, which is a great exercise in fluent and flexible thinking, as well as a great introduction to the process of iteration (think quantity of ideas, leads to quality).

Once the students have spent time thinking through some ideas, they present their idea to me before they begin. This short conference, is a great way for me to touch base with the students and learn about their idea, thinking and direction for creating and making. If a student is struggling to find an idea, I will spend some time chatting with him/her and helping them get to a place where they can make some decisions and build their creative confidence along the way. I often tell students I won’t give them an idea, but I will help them discover one on their own. Some students do struggle, and that is important too. Creative ideas are hard to think of. It takes time to develop an idea that is original and unique. I often talk to the students about where good ideas come from, and how the key is quantity over quality in the beginning. Going with your first choice is usually the easiest, but not always the most creative. Some students announce that they already have their idea, before I even finish explaining the project! They are so enamored by the tools and materials, they just want the go ahead to dig in. The act of slowing down and thinking deeper is a challenge, but an essential one.

A goal I am working on this year is to slow down more and let students really think deeper about the purpose and intent of their art making. We do this in a variety of ways such as; thinking routines, creativity challenges, and other idea generation techniques. As the year goes on, the students will be more comfortable with the tools and materials in the room, as well as the independent flow of the work space. Once they build a comfort level with the tools and materials, they can begin to think deeper and make meaningful connections between their lives and their art making ideas.

Which leads me to the title of this post, That’s it!? When a child brings home an art project, it may take many forms. For some, the project arrives home in a Uhaul, while others it can fit neatly into their pocket. It is important to note that the size of a project does not dictate the effort, thought, or creativity. Each child takes a different approach to their creating and interprets the art challenge in many different ways. This open-ended approach really helps build creative confidence, stretches creative minds and promotes independent thinkers in the process. When a child brings home a work of art, asking deeper questions may help elicit a thoughtful conversation about artistic intent and purpose as well. Please check my website and twitter feed for routine explanations of projects that may help provide a context for the artwork. Some questions that might help; Tell me about what you created? Why did you choose those materials? How did you symbolize ideas in your artwork? How is this artwork connected to you? Did you change your mind along the way? Why? Did you experiment with tools and materials along the way? These are just a few questions that might spark a conversation and help uncover the intent and purpose of the creation. All students complete artist statements as well. These short statements are a brief glimpse into the thought process of these inspiring artists.

The art projects take several weeks to complete. Time is spent in many different ways. Some classes are used for idea generation, some are used for inspiring students to dig deeper, and some are spent celebrating the project itself. Each aspect of a project is vital to the creative process. When your child brings home an artwork, please remember it is a souvenir of a larger journey of creative expression, critical thinking and personal connection. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments. I am always happy to talk creativity! Thank you for supporting the arts and creative minds of all our children.

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