I believe we are all artists. By our simple breath, we create oxygen in the air. Creating is a natural process of being human. Scientist create theories. Lawyers create arguments. Engineers create technology. Teachers create lesson plans. Chefs create recipes. Creating is taking a thought or idea and manifesting it into being. We make choices as humans. The result is from our creativity.
My personal life philosophy is that all things are possible, and this permeates in my approach to teaching art. I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in Yakima, Wa. In 5th grade I won one of two spots to attend the school districts “Company 7” program. My classmates didn’t think I deserved this because I wasn’t talented enough and weird. I took the public bus to the lower socioeconomic part of town, where classes were held at a Junior High. We learned about different artists, took field trips to Seattle, WA to see plays and visit museums. From this age and experience, I knew I could dream big, and I did. I’ve lived in Germany, had a children’s book published, a short film in a Native Film Festival and my works shown in a few exhibits.
I also learned how some could not see beyond my skin color. When I started 8th grade at a new school, the math teacher separated the kids of color from the rest of the class. We were taught basic math, while the rest of the class learned Algebra. For the rest of my education, I was placed in the most basic classes based on the color of my skin.
Returning to school at the age of 53, I know all things are possible. I have a high GPA, I understand science, and I continue to learn and grow. When I teach art and hear a student say they can’t do this or that, I tell them all things are possible.
I think that art lessons planned with a clear objective leads to an environment where students can complete the objective with student choice, agency, and expression. There are no hard set rules, only the participation of creating. There is not one specific way to create. All ways are correct.
One thing that speaks through art are emotions. Every emotion is valid. Emotions were not talked about when I grew up. Now emotional intelligence is important for ones health. Understanding how you feel, expressing your feelings and finally validating your own feelings leads to human connecting and having compassion. Understanding feelings leads to a higher understanding of art and art appreciation.
My lesson plans are designed with cross-curriculum alignment, so that students are engaged with current subject standards in a meaningful way. It is important for children to take their understanding of what they are being taught and translate that into art. This helps them retain what they learn and become critical learners.
My approach is through a variety of mediums, including air drying clay art, water color, pencil and crayons. As a child, I was told I wasn’t an artist because I couldn’t draw realistically. I believed I was an art poser most of my life. It wasn’t until my college 3-D art class, that I discovered I was a real artist. When I took my college drawing class, the Professor told me that I was an artist. Both Professors let me bend the rules and color outside of the box. Presenting students with a variety of methods and mediums helps them discover the type of artist they are.
I conduct my class with the culture that there are no rules to art. It is encouraged if they want to color outside the lines. It is encouraged if they want to trace their arms. It is encouraged if they want to draw pictures instead of writing words. It is more important for me that they have a voice, and that they can express themselves creatively through art. This is a radical concept as there are rules in art, such as composition, form and design. If these rules get repeated over and over, the student’s voice gets smaller and smaller. Who they are gets replaced with societies idea of what art is. For a student to find their own creative voice, they need to create without boundaries.
I create lessons that are individualized and collaborative, such as rearranging tables and chairs to share supplies. Art lessons can be outside or inside. Art can be quiet individual time or noisy as a team. It can be comfortable or uncomfortable. It most certainly must make you feel, think and expand.
It is my belief all children are artist that can accomplish creating with clear objectives and free latitude.