On Becoming Art Smart

My girls, especially Alyanna, have been asking me to bring them to art classes for a couple of years now. I think Alyanna was only four when she started expressing her desire to have art lessons. Due to budget constraints, however, we never really put art classes on top of the priority list. My standard response was always, “Oh, you want to learn art? just express yourself! Here’s a blank sheet of paper and some coloring materials. Express yourself! That’s the best form of art!” In a way, I really did feel that there were supposed to be no rules to art. I felt at that time that the best art lesson for them was to learn how to freely express themselves through whatever medium they chose to use. I wanted them to be creative enough to feel they were free to create without being restricted by rules and techniques. Even now, I feel there is some truth to this. (Of course, now I also have to admit to you that a huge part of this line of reasoning was really to justify not being able to bring them to “formal” art classes.)

Then I watched this very thought-provoking talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

Ouch.

Art is not an “extra subject” I let my kids have when there’s spare time or spare money. It’s primary. It’s essential.

This started our initial search for good art teachers and classes.

The first class we tried out (and almost enrolled in!) became our first and last attempt at that school. The teacher, according to my girls, “laughed” at one of their works. My little reporters told me that when the teacher laid eyes on one of their drawings, she laughed and ask why they kept coloring outside the lines. This was my fault, really. I taught them they need not be limited by lines and could color anywhere they wanted. Eep!

In another class they tried, they said that the teacher kept holding their hand and basically “drew” for them. They felt like they were merely holding the brushes. Each time they came home, they would show their work and say, “Well, it’s nice but it’s not really my work anymore.”

We took a break from our search, though I would still ask my friends around for suggestions. One name that always came up was Teacher Aubrey. Teacher Aubrey Rose Bea-Decloedt has been teaching art since 1999. I actually had a couple of art sessions with her prior to getting married. I know how well she works with children because I took lessons together with the other kids. Two words I would use to describe her teaching style would be calm and clear. She knew what she was teaching, and she knew how to teach it. Principles and techniques were taught as we painted. At the end of each  session, not only did we learn a new technique, we had an output that we felt good about! 🙂

I recently picked up this book, The Art of Teaching Art to Children by Nancy Beal. Though I have yet to finish it, I already agree with many of her ideas. One of the things she says at the beginning of her book is this:

“I think primarily in terms of art materials. I teach long-term familiarity with these materials so that the children can master them and use them to express their own life experiences. My goal is to have children feel so comfortable and confident with these materials that they are willing to use them to speak about their innermost thoughts and feelings.”

This is also my goal for my kids as they learn art. I want them to be able to be able to express themselves better through their art. On one hand, I want them to learn techniques. On the other hand, I don’t want them to be restricted by them. Upon asking my girls about ArtSmart’s manner of teaching, my kids reported that they liked how they were taught painting techniques but at the same time, they still felt that it was “THEIR” work.

Pablo Picasso once said that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I believe that how art is taught and presented to children is key in determining how they will come to see art and how they would come to express themselves through art once they grow up.

Since we enrolled the kids in ArtSmart, I have seen not only their skills improve, but more importantly, their confidence and interest in art have dramatically increased. In fact, I remember how I used to take them to art galleries and they would just go through the paintings and say “Okay mom, now can we go?,” while I would passionately read the descriptions and tell them my thoughts. Since they started learning how to paint, they actually were the ones who invited me and asked me to go back and enter each of the art galleries and stores in the mall and on their own, they read and talked about the paintings! Feeling artist na! 

Here are some of the works of the girls so far:

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Their very first paintings!

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If you wish to know more about ArtSmart, here’s their website: http://www.artsmartmanila.com/

You may also check out their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ArtSmartStudio.Manila/ and follow them on Instagram @artsmartmanila.

 

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