“Adults, Leave those kids alone!”

I see myself as an artist. I always have.

Why? Becasue I’ve always drawn and no one has ever interferred and told me how to do it. I’ve just done it my way. Drawn what I felt like drawing, drawn it how I thought it should go. This has allowed me to develop my own style, at my own pace and it’s still developing to this day.

 

Sadly, too many adults that I know, and even sadder, lots of children, think that they cannot draw or create. Yes, some people are born more creative than others. But everyone can create. What stops children and adults from creating?

Teachers and parents.

 

As a teacher and a parent, I cringe when I think about how I used to teach art in the classroom. At a lot of schools, too much value is placed on the teacher who has one of those classrooms, where you walk in and all the art is generic and bright. Perfectly hung. The art all looks the same. The class looks immaculate.

To be clear, I know lots of amazing teachers who’s classes are like this. They’re doing a great job. But as far as creativity goes. Should “Jimmy’s” art look like “Andrew’s”?

No it shouldn’t.

 

In my first year of teaching, I had a class of six year olds. I saw in a book, this amazing 3D sunflower art. I wanted to give it a shot. I worked witht the kids in groups. So that I could control every aspect of what they were doing. Step by step. “Paint the backround blue first.”   “Now paint the petals.” “No not that way!”… (cringe).

The art took forever and I was stressed, the kids were too scared to do a thing without me looking. Some had mini meltdowns.The sunflowers looked amazing. I had 26 amazing, nearly identical sunflowers to hang up in my class. (Again, cringe).

 

When I started having children of my own. I started to realise that I needed to back off when it came to my kid’s art. I started doing relief teaching. When I’d arrive that morning to the class I was filling in for. The teacher would often say to me, “Oh you’re an artist! Can you do art with the kids today?” I would feel sad inside. I knew the teacher had expectations of me doing something “amazing” with the children. The trouble was, all I wanted to do was get out some art supplies and paper, then put on some stimulating music. Then say, “Go for it kids.”

I knew that this was going to be the best way that these children would enjoy the creative process. Also the best way for them to develop thier skills and styles. Sadly though, that art would not be appreciated by many. It wouldn’t look “pretty” enough or “bright” enough. People wouldn’t see that this art would be from the children’s hearts.

When I do get to do art like this with the kids. I always demonstrate what I can do. But I stress to them that I don’t expect their art to look like mine. They are welcome to use my ideas and techniques. But they might come up with something even better if they use their own brilliant minds.

It still warms my heart when I think about the year that my middle son Ben had a wonderful male teacher. Ben was about 8 at the time. He did ok at school, but his handwriting was always messy. He wrote great stories though. The school did a calendar fundraiser. The children had to create art to go on their calendar. This particular event puts a lot of pressure on teachers to create something spectacular. But Ben’s teacher didn’t bow to this pressure. He basicly gave the kids their calendar paper and said, “Go for it kids, draw what you’re into!”

Ben is a mad fisherman. He lives and breaths it. So naturally that’s what he drew.

I ordered the calendar that he made not knowing what the art was going to look like. When it arrived, I nearly cried. Happy tears.

To the untrained eye, it looked like a page of scrawly little scribbles and a mass of dye. But when you looked closer, it was an underwater sea theme. The lots of little scribbles, were little sea creatures. Loads of them. All pain stakingly drawn with special features. This “messy” drawing, had been drawn with so much attention to detail. Was it pretty? No. Was it interesting? Yes! Was it original? Yes!!! Was it from Ben’s heart? Oh yes.

I had it hanging in the kitchen and I took great pleasure in pointing out to visitors what it was. They would then look closer and see the scribbles unfold in front of their eyes. A big bright sunflower would’ve caught thier eye immediately. But this art was way more interesting.

Ben’s calendar art, age 8.

This teacher who did this calendar art with his class, did it this way because he reconed he was useless at art. But he needs to know, that often those teachers are the best art teachers. Because they leave the kids alone.

In my classroom, if I need the kids to do a particular theme. I might show them photos of it. But then, I give them the materials and say,”Now go for it and do it how you think it should be done.”

Once they’ve drawn it and are on to the next stage, they aren’t allowed to come up to me and say, “Is this good?” If they do, I reply, “I don’t know? It’s your art, do you thnk it’s good?” Often they can’t believe it. They’ve ususally spent most of their school days waiting for the teacher to tell them if it’s “right”. (I used to do that sadly as a teacher.)

Once they realise that they are in charge, I see the relief. The fear of judgement is gone. They encourage each other. They don’t tell their friend that their’s looks dumb because it doesn’t look like their own. They embrace each other’s different styles.

When adults tell me that they can’t draw of create. It’s usuaully because somewhere along the line, an adult has told them that they’ve “done it wrong.” How art can be done wrong is beyond me. I discouraged my own children from doing art at highschool. How can you “pass or fail” art? I failed art at highschool. I didn’t do any art for years after that. Now, I make money from that messy style that apparently wasn’t right.

I’ve had adults tell me that they are hopeless at art because “what they have in their head, never comes out like that on paper.” I understand, that happens to me. But guess what, no one knew what was in your head to begin with. So you can’t be wrong.

You can’t be wrong. YOU CAN’T BE WRONG!

Send them to me if they tell you you’ve done it wrong. I’ll sort them  out.

Happy creating. X