Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Teaching Something You're Not Good At

I am not an artist.  I'm not crafty, I'm not creative, I'm not artistic in the least.  My idea of artistic is finding something at the store that happens to match something else that I already have and putting them together.  Tada!  Once in a while I will do a cross-stitch project, but it's not a project *I* invent or design; I do what the pattern says and have done with it.

So teaching art isn't my thing.  Different mediums, different techniques, different periods in art - all of that is like a foreign language to me... and yet I want the kids to be able to appreciate these things.  I want to expose them to art in all its forms.  I want to teach art.  I'm just not good at it or knowledgeable enough about it to teach it with any degree of confidence.

That's where the books step in.

This is our second year using the Artistic Pursuits series.  Last year I used Book One in their K-3 series; this year we're using Book Two.  This means that M1 is theoretically doing stuff a year behind where he should be and M2 is right on track, but really, these books seem to be designed for the entire age group.  I've never had a single complaint about something being too easy or too hard (though Little Miss Perfectionist sometimes gets her panties in a wad because she thinks she's messed up a project... more on that in a minute).

Most of the time I can figure out what we're doing with very little effort, and I can explain projects easily.  This week, though, we were doing something that I had never even considered doing before.  We made prints.

Water-soluble ink on wax paper that's been taped to the counter
 I've toured a screen-printing shop once, years ago, and I used to work at the newspaper, where the presses ran for hours each day, and yet it had never occurred to me that I could transfer those techniques to anything I could do at home.

Roll the ink out with a tool called a brayer until it covers the area you want 
The kids, though, thought this was one of the best projects we've ever done.  I didn't hear one peep of frustration.  They were enthusiastic and really, really enjoyed the entire process.

Use a pointed tool to etch an image into the ink - we used skewers
Don't forget that the final print will be a mirror image, so don't write words! 
Press the paper firmly over the ink, making sure to rub every square inch 
The best part for me was that clean-up was a breeze.

Click on the images to enlarge
The end products weren't quite as good as the kids had hoped, but they were still enthusiastic and plan to make more monoprints later.

The fact that M2 was able to be somewhat disappointed in her final product and let it go is huge.  She really gets upset when things don't turn out the way she had planned. Thankfully, when we were on vacation in Kansas City last month, we got her a book that seems to have helped alleviate some of that anxiety.  It's called Make Art Mistakes.  When she looks through it, she realizes that mistakes in art aren't always mistakes.  You can still do something with those pages.  They aren't trash because one little dot was placed in the wrong spot.  They are still art.  Letting go of preconceived notions about art has been very liberating for my little girl.  M1 doesn't care - to him, art is fun.  He enjoys the projects, happily picks out his favorite paintings at museums, sometimes sketches random diagrams of things he wants to make, but really... not his thing.  M2, however, perceives herself as a rising artist and sometimes thinks that her pieces should look like they're on an adult level at the ripe old age of 7.  I'm very glad she's realizing that nobody is perfect and that she is doing just fine for her age.  As she gets older, I'd like to get her this Daily Creativity Journal so she has even more ideas.

I may not be good at art.  I may never be able to instantly tell the difference between a Monet and a Rembrandt.  But if I can have my kids love it, then I must be doing something right!

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