I'm a big fan of the blog Deep Space Sparkle. This lovely blog is run by an elementary school art teacher, Patty. She shares wonderful art projects, including how to's, supply lists and even pictures of the art her students produce. Her love of art and her passion teaching her students is evident, and her art lessons are so much fun and easy to implement, even at home. Love it!
She recently wrote a post about "open ended art" in response to a critique someone wrote about her blog. An art education student wrote a review of her site and in it, this person called her projects "cookie cutter" and said there was a lack of open ended art projects on her site. She wrote a very gracious response to the critique (and not everything this art student had to say about Deep Space Sparkle was negative), but the topic got me thinking as well. Should we be teaching art in a specific way, with a singular end product in mind? Or should we be teaching kids to do art their own way, keeping it open ended so their creativity can flow?
It reminded me of something I read with regard to teaching language arts and writing - I can't recall where I read this particular nugget, but it has stuck with me. Paraphrased, the person said, "We expect children to be creative, but we don't give them anything to be creative with." In this context, they were talking about exposure to great literature and using copywork of great writing to expose kids to how language can be used.
I think the same thing applies to art. We want kids to be creative, but until they've been exposed to the masters, to great paintings, sculpture and other works of art; and until they've been taught how to use watercolors versus acrylics and oil pastels, crayons and colored pencils, how can they really BE creative? Art instruction, both in technique and in art history, gives students the tools to unlock endless possibilities! How else would they know that if you draw with oil pastel and then watercolor over it, the oil pastel will resist the paint? How else would they know how to draw a vanishing point or learn about perspective and form?
I love the idea of creative kids, but without feeding their imaginations with great stuff, they don't have much creative with. Great books, art, music, and even instruction in technique, is all important to unleashing their creativity; giving them tools to be creative with. And then, the sky is the limit.