The Importance of Getting Youth Involved in Art

11 Dec 2009

Last week I had the opportunity to get together with a handful of art-materials retailers from around the United States and Canada to discuss concerns about reaching the art-making world and to share what artists are purchasing and what materials they are shifting to. We discussed the recent survey that was co-produced by NAMTA (International Art Materials Trade Association) and American Artist this past spring. One of the biggest realizations prompted by this survey is the notion that people who practice art as their profession typically found their love for art before the age of 12. The numbers indicate that 63 percent of people who work professionally as an artist today got into art at a young age. This leaves me, along with the art-materials industry, wondering how we can encourage children and teenagers today to be interested in art. With the recession taking a toll on school art programs and on community and state grants for art, how can the passion for making art start in our younger generations?

Personally, I'm wondering how I can get involved in art making in my small town. Maybe it is going to start with the local art council, with teaching community classes after school, or with building relationships with local galleries to showcase young talent. It could also be about discovering what teenagers are involved in culturally. What can stir their interest in drawing with so much technology and widgets to distract them?

With so much focus on fantasy and sci-fi in movies, TV, comics, novels, and now graphic novels, it seems as though kids tend to take on those fantasical characters: vampires, dragons, beasts, superhuman heroes, etc. Artist Daily's part in the bridge between art and upcoming artists is to bring forward instruction and illustration that these young people might enjoy. NeonDragonart.com artist Jessica Peffer has been on this path for a while, providing instruction for anyone young or old who is interested in picking up skills drawing fantasy beasts. We've recently put some of her books, including DragonArt, on our website, and you can find out more about the content in our online store.

Regardless of how you reach out to those around you who are starting on their own artistic paths, the passion you carry as an artist for the art-making world will surely be catching. I'd be interested in hearing your ideas for the next generation of artists. Find me in our online forums, or reach me on Twitter @American_Artist.


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on 11 Dec 2009 6:39 AM

Karyn,

Many of tomorrow's artists don't have the funds (or their families don't) to take workshops, classes or buy DVD's. When I was a kid, I taught myself to draw with Walter Foster books, but had no one to mentor me in person. Later, I had some good teachers in the California public school system.

So,  how do kids who are passionate about art receive the academic essentials... like understanding how light and shadow falls on sphere's, cubes, etc... the properties of reflected light, the four planes of the landscape, cool light source produces warm shadows... and all that stuff?

How do those kids whose parents are not artists connect with artists who can share this information?

Yeah, I know... lots more questions. At around age 10-12, they can begin to understand and use the things listed above.

on 11 Dec 2009 6:51 AM

One other thought just came to mind... Richard Schmid began his art education early (neither of his parents were artists) by learning from the "Famous Artists School". He sent in the assignments and famous illustrators critiqued his work. My guess is that this school was not very expensive. There was a workbook, and no travel was required.

Today, a similar tool could be made - only now the student's work could be critiqued online. Perhaps something could be designed to get young people off to a good start with all the fundamentals of drawing. Perhaps there could be scholarships for some that qualify but can't afford to pay.

Kisu wrote
on 11 Dec 2009 9:03 AM

I worked with kids under the age of 12 for about 14 years and the most important thing I observed or gleaned for young kids was the importance of open-ended art exploration and experimentation.  I'm wary of making art too academic too soon for younger kids.  

I, too, copied drawings in magazine ads like the 'Famous Artists School,' or some other art correspondence school, but I never actually enrolled.  My older brother was already in art school, so he provided some guidance to me.  When kids are ready for more advanced training they will make attempts to self-teach, and I think that's the time to step in and start introducing the fundamentals in a systematic way.  

j woodhead wrote
on 11 Dec 2009 10:04 AM

I used Betty Edwards book to teach home-schooled middle school aged kids how to draw. The only cost was their paper, eraser and pencils. I have college teaching background and am an amateur artist, but managed to get lessons and class work developed for the 10 week course. One student did really well and I recommended she go to the local junior college "teens on campus" program for more instruction.

Kisu wrote
on 11 Dec 2009 10:54 AM

"...Personally, I'm wondering how I can get involved in art making in my small town. Maybe it is going to start with the local art council, with teaching community classes after school, or with building relationships with local galleries to showcase young talent. It could also be about discovering what teenagers are involved in culturally. What can stir their interest in drawing with so much technology and widgets to distract them?..."

Now that I think about it, all of these ideas are going on in my small, economically challenged town.  We have a graffiti problem, so a gallery decided to showcase graffiti type art in the gallery, hoping to encourage young people to transition this energy in a different direction (i.e., away from the sides of alley garages and interstate overpasses and onto acceptable substrates), a coffee house/gallery had an under-21 show, and there are weekend demonstrations for the public on a monthly basis at other galleries, where people of all ages can try their hand at some kinds of art forms, such as monotype printmaking.  

j.b2 wrote
on 11 Dec 2009 11:50 AM

When ever a parent mentions to me that their young child is into drawing or art I go out and buy them a copy of “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” by Stan Lee, and some pencils with a drawing pad.

Why? Comics get the child’s attention & unknown to them they are getting a fun lesson in drawing. And who knows, they may continue on..

I remember my 1st drawing set, a “John Nagy Learn to Draw” kit. I had seen him on TV.  I don’t know where the kit came from or who bought it. I’m guessing that someone didn’t want it so they gave it to my grand parents. I didn’t care it was at now mine and I loved it. So I sat at the table and drew, and drew. When my dad died a few years back my step mother gave me all the paintings & drawings I drew down at my grand parents place, as I wasn’t allowed to draw or paint at my mom’s house until years later…

on 11 Dec 2009 1:17 PM

We live in a small town and supplies are hard to come by unless you drive 20+ miles or order online. The economy is such that a small art supply business would not last long. We have a frame shop that does have some things but families may not feel comfortable going in if they do not know much about the supplies needed and may be put off by the prices. I have tried to take advantage of sales of supplies at craft stores which I drive to the "city" and re-sell them to students at just above cost which barely covers tax and gas. (I have given away more than I have sold just so the students could keep painting).The students I supply to go to a elderly ladies' home who teaches oil painting in her kitchen at only ten dollars a lesson.The youths love the painting lessons and some have been doing it for 3+ years now. We do have a monthly lesson from the local art association that is free if you reserve a spot. That is one sure way to get kids trying different art - when it is free to the public. Our elementary schools do not have classes but the teachers try to incorporate art activities in their classrooms usually with donations from parents willing to come in and help.We do have a art "academy" but I think many kids can not do it because of money.Local businesses could help by offering contests and displaying art. I started seriously loving art by age 12. Two things happened. One I drew well enough to be accepted into an advanced art class in my school and two, I found a used art case full of used oil painting supplies in a trash can outside of an art studio. It was enough to get me started on my life long love for art.

on 11 Dec 2009 2:42 PM

I've probably said this before, but I'll say it again just to let folks know how my background affects my thoughts about this subject.

The three kids in my family had a single mom - all my life, and we lived under the poverty level, but managed to pay the bills. All I wanted for Christmas, the year I was 11 was a "How to Draw Dogs" book by Walter Foster, and that's pretty much all I got. I drew every dog in the book on loose leaf paper with a pencil... not having the heart to ask for real art supplies. But I did learn how to draw from that book! I still have the original book in my possession and it means a great deal to me. The price on it is $1.00

Would I have learned more if I had good art supplies? Probably not, but if I had real drawing materials and paper, perhaps those drawings would have lasted or been framed. A couple of years later, my aunt treated me to some oil painting supplies. I had a blast.

on 13 Dec 2009 1:34 AM

Given the recent explosion in popularity of Manga (Japanese comics) and Anime (Japanese cartoons) among kids and teens, short courses focused on sketching and cartooning some of the more popular subjects (Kodomo, Shojo, and Shonen) in the typical manga/anime style could be a pretty effective approach for engaging kids' attention and focusing their energies to gradually build their visual literacy and basic artistic skills.  The required starting materials are often fairly affordable and readily accessible (copy paper, pencils, pigment pens) while dedicated professional manga tools (brush pens, illustration markers, screen tones) are becoming easier to find online and in local art supplies shops.  For suitable authentic reference materials, many public libraries hold substantial collection of Tankōbon (manga graphic novels and series) and drawing technique books.

Karyn wrote
on 14 Dec 2009 11:26 AM

Lots of great input and points.  

I agree, Lori, that it is hard to get the academic teaching to the younger audience, especially if their is no parental support, school support or funding.  I think the key is the artist movement stirring to make the difference.  And, getting any sort of inspiration to the young.

I also agree with Kisu that keeping things open ended so that kids can find their medium or their path.  

I copied as a youngster as well, though not from such well known books.  I copied illustrations from my Golden books series.  Smile

And to hear how some of you are currently working to teach art to those in your community is truly inspiring.  It stirs me to think more of what I can do on the community level and on the bigger circuit.  J Woodhead & Lauri, your effort, drive and time are an inspiration.  I am sure your work is both rewarding and much appreciated by the students.

on 14 Dec 2009 12:36 PM

This post was mentioned on Twitter by Loriwords: RT @American_Artist: The Importance of Getting Youth Involved in Art: http://bit.ly/6jsXY9

hunteryeti wrote
on 15 Dec 2009 10:53 PM

I agree with this article. Art has done so much in my life with out it I don't know what kind of person I will be. I have expermented with every kind of art and I did every thing but my main drawing skills are star wars and so forth but I also like doing many other things like doing landscapes and so on and so forth. Right now I am showing my brother on drawing and me and him are taking art classes witch I am learning new techniques every single day.  Right now my brother is like my apprintice or a square. But all I can say is art is a great way. I had many mentors to show me there techniques.

hunteryeti wrote
on 15 Dec 2009 10:56 PM

What I think you should do is try to make small art groups or art classes in small towns and of course big cities. and like every once a year or so have a convention where you can meet artist of any kind of artist and like star wars artist or any (you get my point) No matter what the age. But there could be age groups

Karyn wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 10:11 AM

Glad to hear from you Hunteryeti!  Its good to know that you are working on your own art and encouraging your brother as well.  

MariaB35 wrote
on 5 Jan 2010 6:49 AM

Happy New Year everyone!!  

I have been out of the loop because of the holidays and just found this thread.

It's very interesting and just what we've been discussing in our community art center.  We have a spring show in March and want to include the children of all ages, for the first time, and try to get more involvement from the families in the community.  Bringing art to those who don't normally get a chance to experience it is very important to us.  The economy has taken a toll on everyone and some children don't have the opportunity to take classes outside of the very limited art in schools.

We would like to have some projects in different medias for them to do and take home.  (Any ideas?)  Of course, these art projects can't be too complicated because of time restraints, but having some fun projects would get alot of kids started or inspired for life.

I was inspired just like that in a summer camp at a YWCA when I was 10.  Never having formal classes other than a spattering here and there in public school, I never knew there was such a variety of art.  I just knew I loved drawing and doodling on anything.  Some/all children just need this mentoring.  We can help by sharing our limited knowledge when ever we have a chance.

Thanks to everyone for these forums and posts so we can continue learning ourselves.  The older I get, I realize how much I don't know!!  And how much more I want to know!

YSokolov wrote
on 14 Jan 2010 12:36 PM

Karyn,

as a teacher in High school, I try to find a lot of different ways to involve students into making art. We have a lot of resources, unlike some schools surrounding our area (Malden, MO). We have all the painting supplies available, drawing, and even a large electric kiln and a potters wheel. I do have a lot of talented students here who are very much love to make art, however it seems to be taking a back seat in their life as the times got tougher.

Even though the times are tough, we are working hard (and so are the surrounding museums and galleries) to involve students into different shows. We are currently working on putting together a show in March, at the Museum in Sikeston, MO. It will be involving many students from the surrounding schools. And to my surprise, I will have four students entering this year, one of which with 3 different works of art.

Sometimes it does look like the future is bright!

Best regards,

Y. Sokolov