The Art of Art

We see a lot of children in our workshops and almost all of them love making.

From the toddlers who just enjoy making marks with a crayon through the younger children developing their skills and imaginations and into the nines / 10s plus group who make something very specific for their room or a gift. Once finished they can have absolute, unadulterated joy and pride in what they have created.  In addition, the majority of adults who accompany the children, whether teenage siblings, 20something’s, 30something’s, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents, they throw themselves into sticking and gluing with as much gusto as the kids.

I say almost every child as, each series of workshops that we have run, there has been at least one child, generally 6 or 7+ who quite adamantly doesn’t want to make anything. If they have a younger sibling they generally join in when they get through the door – we always aim at least one craft at the edgier older child side.

We also get a handful of parents who walk in, look around and walk straight out again pulling a disappointed much keener child behind them as soon as they realise what we do.

So, all of this has made me curious on two points.

  • What turns off the minority of children, who then assumedly later become the adults who don’t want to stay and create? At what stage do children begin to feel that it’s not for them after having had such fun and joy at an early age?

And

  • As children so enjoy the process of creation and can have such pride in their work to, why are there not more artists out there?

The recent trend for adult crafts makes me think that it’s not just the parents with their children who enjoy making; that there is something innate in people, to make and create and to let their imaginations run wild, and so where does it all get lost?

These are my theories on where it goes wrong and I want to emphasise that I’ve not tested these, nor do I claim to have an expert view, they are simply my opinions:

Teaching ‘proper art’

If, as defined by Oxford English Dictionaries, art is,  ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’, then why do we grade art in schools? Why is there a pass or a fail if they are produced to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Why not – just appreciate them? Maybe if we praised all children all the way through school for whatever they created, they would maintain that pure love of making.

Perhaps rather than art as a lesson with rules and the subjective likes or dislikes of teachers and examiners, we should have creativity periods. A facilitation session where children are encouraged to experiment and try out new techniques and where art theory is shown. No pass or fail but a break from taking information in and just, for the love of it, happily putting out a process.

Those children who show excellence and a desire to continue can progress to A-level and University to hone their skills and follow art as a career and during this can be taught the necessary art ‘skills’. How relaxed could children be in schools if they had some me time where for a short period once a week everything they did was right?

Many of our greatest artists broke the rules and risked disapproval. They were ridiculed and ignored until far past their lives ended. Yet as we look down on past generations for not recognising the originality and beauty of this unconventional art, at the same time we are telling children that they must be conventional and approved of.

There’s nothing I can do about altering the attitude of schools to art but here’s hoping that the children who come through our workshops will continue to have lots of gluey fun following their creative imaginations without pressure or judgement.