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Free Art, Success, and Self Confidence

CONVENER(S): Jeff Weesner

PARTICIPANTS: Vanessa Desiree, Maria, Lau, Sory, P.B.D., Julie Perez, Liuia Adams, L. Metz, Maui Jenkins, Debra Browne, Lee Ann Gattorno, Jill Gueuthu


Let them share art with you - with few boundaries. Their success is gurarnteed - they're doing it. Mistakes are a part of creating. Confidence comes with time, tools, and acceptance that we all different opinions - it is enough to like our own work.

From as early as 18 months, I have worked on works of art with my children. Beginning with a large piece of paper taped to the floor, the child sitting on the paper, and crayons (water color brushes, or pastels strewn about. Even at that age, you can see them get excited, trying to control their hands, and being thrilled with any mark that hits the paper. This can be done at any age. Whether children want cooperative or parallel play, they can participate with you on a large work.

One year I was asked by a teacher to encourage my kindergardener to draw over the summer so he would be more likely to participate in the class when he returned in the fall. As soon as I suggested the idea, the answer was "no". He was defensive and knew that he had been set up. [As it turns out, this was only one way in which he ovoided or appeared to be unterested in work in which he might fail.] I drew anyway. I drew attention to my weaknesses, made a mess, enjoyed my work, and asked his opinion. Kids will criticize, complement, tell you what they see, help you, and sometimes add to the work. You want them engaged, taking chances. Art is a great place to gain confidence because the evaluation is subjective. Short of not trying, there should be little opportunity for failure.

Once a child is engaged, you have the opportunity to ask questions about interpretation (Tell me about this. What do you see? How did you know to do that? Ask for the story). Any thing he does is good, cool, interesting, neat. [I've never seen that, show me how to do it.]

What ever it becomes, defines perfection for itself. It achieved being exactly what it is.

This is also a time when we need to introduce the concept of differing opinions. Some people will say it is great or good. Some people will say something nice, even though they do not understand, do not see the same things, or dislike the work and that is ok. We can't change that. [A good exercise to illustrate the idea, is interpreting clouds together.]

Understandthat much of this happens over time, over many projects.

While art may be free and open to interpretation, the artists skills (tools) enable greater opportunity to make choices and participate in a greater range of works. Accomplishing the skill should not overshadow enjoying the work. If you are working along side children, you can model techniques. They will copy, mimic, and repeat a technique until they are comfortable with it. [It goes in their tool box of skills to be used when they choose.] Dotting, tapping, streaking, shaking, scribbling, tiny concentric circling, shading, striking the paper with pens, pencils, pastels, crayons can all be modeled. [I usually remove the paper from crayons and let them hold it their way, they will eventually copy me.] Kids can draw without erasing. Surprisingly, kids can learn to observe something and draw a beginning line without lifting their hand without looking at the paper. [Start with lines, shapes, eyes open looking ahead, eyes closed imagening, etc.] For adults it can be a tough mental exercise because they believe it is hard.

Sometimes when I am doing nothing, I draw, paint, or work clay for a short period to model the behavior. It only works if you enjoy the work. My kids do this now on their own. We still do projects together.

We have worked on a variety of projects - different supplies, surfaces, including non-traditional.

 Large paper taped to the floor
 Group drawing with an adult to morph the images into one work
 The mud pit
 Using mud, sand, grass, etc. for clay modeling.  Dry some, bake some, add stuff to some.
 Tape covered objects as models.
 Pastels, copy from another painting, hairdryer to melt together - impressionist.

The group of teachers exchanged many ideas.

 Bubble Aft
 coffee filters, color blending
 food art
 making snacks early
 following womens/ home magazines for the season
 chalk on fence, boardwalk, driveways
 plantain w/patte knife - cut and assemble
 homemade playdough (older kids)
 use cookie dough as clay
 using substances inside plastic bags - pudding, whip cream, shaving cream, jello, hair gel
 spray guns with water color
 old aprons & shirts - outside art studio
 painted shirts
 hand & foot print shirts
 painted plates - ceramic, plastic
 paper tears
 paper mache
 build a tee pee w/ bamboo and painted blankets (tarp for water proofing)
 sponge designs
 easle painting

 putting out multiple choices, to allow child to select and pursue work
 friendship quilt
 Cut outs

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Last edited February 15, 2003 10:09 am USA Pacific Time (diff)