Benefits of Art
The benefits of an art class are so many I buckle and crumple at the massive task of explaining the myriad of ways I have personally seen young, and not so young, students benefit from time in the studio. Simply put, the young benefit most obviously in academic ways such as:
- fine motor skills
- logical reasoning
- spatial reasoning
- drawing skills
- right brain development
Teenagers benefit in all the same ways but the studio is also a social context and a way to explore how the world works. They look at contemporary artists and the ideas they are currently expressing, historical artists and what they felt were the pressing issues of their time, and then their own interpretation of various subjects such as "food" or pop art icons.
So what should the components be of a good art class?
In a good art class there should be a balance between structure and freedom. Art classes are not craft kits in a bag. The question should not be "What are we making today?" It should be "What ideas are we exploring today?" or "What skills are we going to learn today?".
Art class should be a balance of structured skill development such as drawing skills and then creative time in which students can express their own ideas in a looser context with the given materials. Self expression and the validation of their creations is an important part in the development of their willingness to take creative risks and be creative. So many classes do a "demo" and expect students to measure their artistic success up against how close they copied the demo. This is, quite simply put, not art. Art is original self expression of original ideas about texture, color harmonies, rhythm and any other concept they chose- such as themselves, others, and the world they live in.
In a well scaffolded and structured art project the class will look at one artist's work such as Van Gogh, then possibly draw from a real still life exploring some of the difficulties in drawing from life with discussion and guidance on how to render things as you see them. Followed by a painting of the sunflower still life with instruction on color mixing and priming a canvas and types of brush strokes. A successful class should be measured by how DIFFERENT all the interpretations of the sunflowers are, and not on how similar they are to the demo, or Van Goghs for that matter!
Despite all the class instruction, real art will always express who you are and be a representation of you in one way or another, kind of like a hand print. I personally measure my own success as a teacher by the myriad of ways each piece differs from the next because then I know I taught them well. I have taught them about the philosophy of why we paint in the first place as well as HOW to paint!