Recently I read a post on a Facebook group that stopped my scrolling thumb in its tracks. And the responses that followed from other teachers concerned me even more.
The post slammed the timeless imagery in children’s artworks, calling these elements trite and cliche. Then asked for support from the Facebook community to agree - and many did, further adding their own particular frustrations to the list.
So what was this teacher referring to and what was the glaring 'hole' in her point of view?
When you think of children’s art, what are the images that spring immediately to mind? I’ll bet these include rainbows, hearts, corner suns, ’tadpole’ people, perhaps a unicorn. Teachers expressed frustration at seeing these childhood elements in their student’s work, year in and year out.
Delving a little deeper, one could see that the writer of the post was experiencing frustration, trying to board the ‘differentiation movement’ bus, exploring teaching methodologies based in *TAB principals and recently offering more choice based centres to her students. She was disappointed when the independent work produced did not approximate the standards that she was used to achieving with teacher directed projects.
The ‘hole’ here is a clear understanding of **adult vs child aesthetics. There is a vast chasm between what adults would judge as aesthetically pleasing, and that which children do. Eyes of teachers and parents have also been fooled for decades by the adult designed, reproduction art factory that has been passing as art education for several decades now.
Art is about communication.
Your ideas, thoughts, feelings, what you value and how you wish to impact others.
Everything that an artist does, references something about them. Hearts, corner suns, rainbows, unicorns, a line of blue painted across the top of the page for sky and those strange looking eyes with two light spots are all part of developmental phases that young artists go through.
The reason teachers see these elements on repeat is because - hello - we teach the same age groups year in and year out. We need to allow young artists to go through these developmental phases , just as we did at that age, and support them to move on, as and when they are ready to do so.
The next time a student paints the blue sky stripe, step outside with them and ask them what they see when they look at the sky colour, where does it start and stop, does it touch the buildings or grass, then compare it to their own work and make adjustments that they (not you) noticed / learned.
When they draw a corner sun, respond positively - they noticed there is a sun in the sky and they are trying to communicate that their picture is about daytime. Perhaps run a workshop on the many ways artists show suns in their work, or the positions within your picture where the sun can be located, based on the time of the day. Take students outside with view finders so they can see that the sun is usually too high in the sky to be included in the frame of their picture.
Allow children to learn through discovery.
While we as teachers may see these elements on repeat, year in and year out, for each young artist these representations and explorations in self-expression, are new.
Don’t rush children through their childhood to meet adult aesthetic expectations sooner than they need to.
Instead, appreciate that they are expressing joy and understanding of the world around them through these elements, and look for opportunities to inspire individual growth.
Art with Mea
IG: timea_oneteachersjourney, artwithmea
Artwork created by 5 & 6 year olds in my art room
*TAB website https://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/index.html
**child v. adult aesthetics in visual art
In visual arts education, educators can sometimes place more importance on art media and technique, with teachers consequently limiting and hindering a child’s creativity processes with adult-imposed goals or agendas (Plows, 2014; Vecchi, 2010; McWilliams, Brailsford Vaughns, O’Hara, Novotny & Kyle, 2014).
Parent, educator or school-based achievement learning agendas in the arts must be discouraged.
Jenson, K. (2018). Early childhood: Learning through visual art. He Kupu, 5 (3), 75-82. Available at https://www.hekupu.ac.nz/article/early-childhood-learning-through-visual-art
Art Lesson Link - exploring suns
Click the button below to be taken to our lesson plan SUMMER SPARKLE. One of the developments that it promotes is to celebrate those corner suns and modify them through the lens of an artist. These examples were created by 6 year olds in my art room.
Thoughts on Teaching
Stuck for ideas? Grab a cup of tea, put your feet up and settle in to read my teaching blog focused on all matters in teaching and Visual Art.