Friday, November 2, 2012

B is for Beginners

As an art teacher working with both young children and senior adults, I work with a lot of beginners. When a young child comes to my class, I expect that I will need to present the basics - how to use a paintbrush, complementary colors, how to draw a face or a flower or a tree.

But kids are not my only students who are new to making art. Over and over in my senior adult classes I am amazed to find people who have never made art before. "Even when you were a kid in school?" I ask. Silly city girl me ... I am often reminded that these older folks grew up on farms and had no time to play, and no access to such luxuries as crayons and paper. Some remind me that they grew up in depression era schools where the three R's took priority over non-essentials such as art. So, my very grown up students, retired and with time for new pursuits are often experiencing the pleasures of drawing and painting for the very first time.

In many ways, I find that teaching each of my groups is very similar. The major difference is that while seniors are better behaved :-), the kids have no fear. Kids are not only willing to try anything, they have complete confidence in the work that they will create.

The seniors on the other hand repeatedly tell me, in one way and another "I'm no artist." Yet they also tell me about the quilts, and dresses and wedding gowns they have made; about arranging flowers, decorating homes, knitting sweaters, embroidering, making lace ... on and on, all their lives. It makes me sad that they do not seem to connect the beautiful work of their hands with the process of making art.

So - in order to overcome the negativity, I work hard to offer projects that allow them to find success, work around visual and other limitations, and help them connect their own skills and interests with the new ones I am there to teach.

The image at the top of  this page is my sketch, done in water soluble crayon (more about that tomorrow) on watercolor paper -a  simple image in lots of color and texture, to inspire and direct a seascape lesson (complete with a Winslow Homer slide show).

Below are 3 examples of the art created by my "non-artist" students. Beautiful, right?

Frances Nishimura

Rosemary Cramer
Marguerite Gedrose