Monday, November 25, 2013

Let the Paint Drip

I really don't like painting. I know I'm good at it, I just don't like it. I never thought about why I feel that way until I read this article by Camp Creek Blog and one of the comments about it (you need to scroll all the way down to see the comment by Julie on November 8th). Reading about how art has been taught and evaluated the same as other subjects in school brought a vivid memory to the surface. This was something I hadn't thought about in years.

I think it had to be in first or second grade. I remember the teacher going through our paintings and commenting on them. I hadn't signed my painting (luckily) but I knew it when I saw it. I had so much trouble with it when I painted it. My brain tends to go faster than my hands. If I sketch, this isn't a problem, but painting requires extra steps. When I was little, I was impatient, so I didn't consider how much paint was on my brush. I just dipped the brush and painted. 

And the thick paint rolled down the easel. Then I tried to fix it, but that only made things worse. Paint was not fun. It didn't listen to me and stay where I put it. I set the painting out to dry and forgot about it.

At least, I forgot about it until my teacher held it up to ridicule. First she complained about the waste of supplies. She was annoyed that someone didn't listen about wiping the excess paint off the brush. I really couldn't remember her telling us that, but I lived in my head when I was a kid. I missed things. My imagination was my real world. It's where I would escape to when I was stuck in hospital rooms or sick at home with asthma. It was hard to turn it off in class.

The final straw for my teacher was that the artist didn't sign their name. "Whose is this?" she demanded. I said nothing. I wasn't stupid. Who would admit that such an awful painting was theirs? She threw it away.

Each of my children is artistically gifted, but all of them started with talent in one area of art. As they grew I let them be, I didn't push them to try media they weren't comfortable with, but I kept them well stocked with various craft and art supplies to inspire them. Chase spent more time creating with Duplo blocks than his sisters. He can make fantastic costumes and weapons out of cardboard, duct tape, and foam. It took him longer to gain confidence with two dimensional art, but that was OK. He had all the time he wanted to develop his skills.

I let them experiment. I let them ruin markers and break crayons. I let them dry out unfinished clay models. I let them use too much glue and spill paint and glitter. That's how they learn. Being an artist is messy business. My parents gave me a constant supply of paper, pens and pencils, etc. I did the same. Our kids are worth those "wasted" supplies in the pursuit of creativity.


Kez said...

When Billy was younger (preschool age) I used to take him to free art "classes" at the art gallery and library. I used to let him colour things whatever colour he wanted (or not if he didn't want to), use whatever supplies etc. My job was to hold things when he asked me to :) And yes, sometimes it was hard to stand back and not make suggestions or 'help'. Until I realised I was wanting him to develop sometimes to my view of the picture not his. Most of the other parents were there saying "no, no , that's the sky, you have to paint it blue" etc.

jugglingpaynes said...

That makes me think of Harry Chapin's song, "Flowers are Red."
Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

That song can make me cry every time.

Inner Elder said...

I don't remember that incident in your early education. I think if I'd known, that teacher would have gotten an earful. But I will say this - you learned a lesson - how not to teach art (or anything else, for that matter). Sometimes we need painful experiences to turn things around when our turn to teach comes. I'd say you succeeded brilliantly with your children. Love, Mom

Lori said...

ugh, my heart hurts for you thinking about the teacher lecturing and humiliating. -_-

love that you’ve been able to give your kids a different experience. <3

Paula Vince said...

I get so sad when I hear about teachers behaving the way that one did to you. I have similar memories from the past. They don't realise the impact they make on impressionable young minds. Yes, you're absolutely right. Let the paint drip.

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