Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Art of Process (Art)


noun \ˈärt\
: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings
: works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings
: the methods and skills used for painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.
:  skill acquired by experience, study, or observation 

There are quite a few process art (read:messy) projects in the MGT curriculum, and the past week, or couple weeks, I have tried to both contain the mess & chaos while also observing student response and participation. Therein lies the difference between how adults and children approach multi-step, multi-sensory creative projects. 

But, when we as teachers try to control the process too much, and thus control the "look" of the final product, it's a bit like the scenario of magazines and agencies "over-editing" or photo-shopping models and actresses so much that they publicly start to disassociate with those images that aren't a true representation of their "work". So it is preschool. If a child feels like their creativity or exploration in art is not accepted as valid, then they disassociate themselves from the final product. It might look nice, but they don't view it as their own work, so they don't show pride in it. 

Cherry Trees: 

I particularly enjoyed watching the "evolution" of the cherry blossom tree project. Because we didn't have copious amounts of brown paint to begin with, Instead of painting each child's entire arm, I traced their hand/forearm on the paper and allowed them to finger paint the trunk and leaves. This gave them the freedom to add branches, experiment with color mixing, and get messy without wasting materials. There was so much joy happening at the table! (coincidentally enough, the "joy" fruit of the spirit was represented as cherries in this month's Experience God devotional). Even mishaps like un-popped popcorn kernels were embraced as a natural part of the project when one student decided they should be "cherries" on the tree. Several other students loved this idea, and added cherries to their work as well. 

 Orange Juice, Plumb Pie, and Porcupines

When your only instructions for artistic boundaries are "keep the paint on the paper, not on the table" there is lots of room for creativity! But also giving children choice in what they use to create, or how they use materials (blowing vs. "drawing" with the straw, or paint/crayon/marker) deepens their sense of "self" created art. The fewer parameters and more choice allowed in the process, the greater the joy IN the process and pride in the final product. I typically hand out take-home (3-D) projects when everyone is sitting on the steps for dismissal. This time allows them to "show and tell" with other school staff and administrators while they wait for parents. Flat art is displayed either in the hallway, or in the classroom, often with a description (with ideas taken from group discussion) written on a sentence strip and posted under the art work. 

Art, like life, is messy. It's a learning process, influenced by how we see ourselves and the world around us. Process art helps children not only learn about creative expression, but also life lessons. For instance, mistakes are not the end of the process, and they don't necessarily "ruin" the final product. Rather, they can be seen as "happy little accidents" (thanks, Bob Ross) that provide deeper complexity and can be turned into something beautiful. 

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