I revel in the artistic talents of others. Artists. Even their penmanship is beautiful. What I like to place into words, they can create in images. It is a God-given talent that I do not possess. That’s why I get so excited to substitute for an art class. I get to appreciate the artistic talents of the teachers through their classrooms. In both high school and elementary school, the classrooms are full of color and information. I learn about artists and art periods and get a chance to admire budding artists-in-the-making.
My job is to keep the students moving forward in their art projects. These projects can be as complicated as three-dimensional clay figures with structural supports or acrylics on canvas that students have enlarged from smaller charcoal drawings. Or they can be colored pastels or pencils on heavy paper. Whatever the project, it is an interesting vehicle for me to engage each student in conversation. And I do.
Engaging students in conversation about their art projects allows them to understand fully what they are doing and helps them to place into words any frustrations or complications they’ve experienced and questions they might have as to how to perform a specific component of the artwork. I encourage them to question their fellow artists in class. The students experience self-confidence as they explain to me how they have created their pieces and how they made a particular detail.
I give specific comments. “I like the shading you’ve given to the palm trees; the effervescence of the sea is striking; the flattened pebble-like scales on your clay fish are distinctive; the combing of the clay makes the bust really look like fur.” In elementary school, I like to watch the smile pop out on the budding artist’s face as I point out a particular feature of the artwork I notice, something that makes his or her drawing unique. These conversations allow students to be artists.
Art permits students to explore their imaginations and offers them an outlet to produce the images floating around in their minds. I truly believe that the arts are important in elementary and high school education. Just look at the annual art fairs at schools and the crowds who enjoy them. Art allows for interpretation of the general into the unique. Do you think art is necessary to education? Why?