Just a few quick thoughts. As I was preparing for the classes I will be teaching tomorrow I came across these disturbing statistics. Active Participation in doing art peaks at nearly 100% for children until they reach the age of about 9…by the time they are young adults active participation is about 6%. A decline of 94% is a little disturbing.
I can understand the statistic though. By the time kids are about 9 or 10 they have recognized that their drawings do not resemble reality as closely as they would wish, so they give up. After all, it’s frustrating and discouraging to continue to do something that you are not good at. In another survey nearly half of the adult population would like to be able to paint and draw, but 72% do not think it is possible for them to learn.
These statistics bother me as I get ready to teach an art class where we will be drawing, painting, and sculpting. I want the kids to find joy and contentment in their time producing art, but I know that for many it will be a stressful and discouraging endeavor. Not being an ‘A’ type personality I’ve always enjoyed the process of creating without worrying overmuch about the result. I’m hoping that the students in my class will be able to enjoy the process, but I’m realistic as well. There is no way to avoid the fact that from the start certain students will be more talented than others and that the less gifted among us will notice.
So is there benefit in having my less artistic student take an art class when I don’t think they will excel. I think so for several reasons. First, just maybe your student will surprise you and with some instruction their latent artistic talents will come to the surface, talents that might have lied undiscovered if we only had our kids try things we knew they would be good at.
Second, maybe your child will discover enjoyment in producing art. I enjoy drawing and painting even though I’m not particularly good at it, it’s relaxing. I remember taking a painting class in England at Cambridge University. I was very intimidated, but my curiosity and the lure of sitting in the English countryside with an easel and paints was just to appealing. Our instructor really didn’t instruct much, just explained a few techniques then we would walk through town or the country and sit down to paint. I got pretty good at watercolor clouds…not a particularly difficult feat, but I have great memories of doing it. Your child doesn’t need to be DaVinci to enjoy producing art and that joy is reason enough to do it.
Thirdly, although I will never be a great painter my stumbling efforts have produced a great deal of admiration for those who can. I love wandering art museums and am continually amazed at the beauty and insights of the great painters. I would imagine many art curators for museums and galleries, many art historians teaching in University are like me, people who will never be great artists themselves but are deeply grateful for the beauty these talented individuals have brought into our lives.
Fourth, you really can’t know where exposure to all sorts of knowledge will lead. We insisted that our children take piano lessons long enough to become somewhat proficient and to read music. To my surprise all of them have pursued an interest in creating music although only one has a preference for the piano. The exposure to the classics, to the practical musical theories, to the importance of doing scales and practicing a piece over and over translated over into other areas. They didn’t have to become concert pianist for those lessons to be beneficial, just as they don’t need to become artist for basic art lessons to benefit them.
So, as your kids try their hand at art lets not just praise their results, but also help them to enjoy the process and to find joy in observing art. Man’s ability to create and to be creative is a gift from God, the Creator, and we should have fun exploring that part of ourselves.