Helping Our Pint-Size Artists

18 Mar 2010

The Painter (detail)
by Nancy Guzik, 1990, oil, 36 x 20.
Private collection.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article about an education program that introduced modern art to children in a museum setting. After seeing the artwork, the kids then had the opportunity to make their own pieces. In the workshop, they acted like successful artists—fearless, opinionated, and not letting anyone tell them what they were “supposed” to see.
 
Time is ticking for our next generation of artists. The findings of a study sponsored by American Artist and the International Art Materials Trade Association (NAMTA) are a wake-up call. The research found that 63 percent of artists had a meaningful experience with art in elementary school or earlier.
 
That means there’s a pretty small window of opportunity to get art in front of kids when it can really make a difference. The fact that the number of art-education programs in schools across the country is small and getting smaller makes this even trickier. But fortunately, the first step is as easy as grabbing pencil and paper, and saying, “Let’s draw.” Drawing, for children, is like going to another world. Figure drawing, in particular, transports kids and leads them to see shapes and objects in a whole new way. 
 
March happens to be Youth Art Month, so we have the perfect excuse to engage with the children in our lives about art. Surprise them with a book such as Keys to Drawing With Imagination. Take little ones to see an exhibition at the nearest art museum, or let them loose in the studio to paint and play.
 
I’m also guessing that some of you are way ahead of the game so leave me a comment about what you’ve been up to, art-wise, with the kids in your lives.


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Comments

sudarsan wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 5:48 AM

Hi,

It is very true that, when we teach art to children we travel to another world. We are training children on art for the past 14 years. We have seen a lot of interest and happiness while the children draws and paint. The questions they ask and their imaginations are very wild and they make us think in another perspective.

And once they have learnt one skill, their interest in learning the next is more welcoming. May a times their is a kind of competition among them self to see who can bring the best.... Our institute is called Peacock Art Institute. Do visit. www.peacockartinstitute.com to see the childrens drawings...

Regards

Sudarsan Yennamalli M.

CherP wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 6:34 AM

When my granddaughter visits for the weekend, we make it our "art time."  We draw and paint together, which allows me to show her the basics of composition and technique.  During our last time together, we painted a piece of bisque pottery.  She was thrilled with the results after firing.  We have truly bonded during these art ventures, and I look forward to our next one.

on 19 Mar 2010 7:21 AM

Thank you Courtney for this important article about the ever growing need for our children to be exposed to the arts. I have taught children privately from the ages of 4-10 that were amazing. They brought me more joy just to see their openess to create. They had their own easels and big old button down shirts...and you could hear a pin drop when they started to paint....they were all boys. Yes, it is  true about art at an early age. My adult son, very talented, took private lessons when young. he hadn't pick up a paint brush in 20 yrs. Just finished the most incrediable oil painting in three hours. So there is no expiration date on that kind of early art experience.

Darlene Moore

on 19 Mar 2010 7:21 AM

Thank you Courtney for this important article about the ever growing need for our children to be exposed to the arts. I have taught children privately from the ages of 4-10 that were amazing. They brought me more joy just to see their openess to create. They had their own easels and big old button down shirts...and you could hear a pin drop when they started to paint....they were all boys. Yes, it is  true about art at an early age. My adult son, very talented, took private lessons when young. he hadn't pick up a paint brush in 20 yrs. Just finished the most incrediable oil painting in three hours. So there is no expiration date on that kind of early art experience.

Darlene Moore

on 19 Mar 2010 7:21 AM

Thank you Courtney for this important article about the ever growing need for our children to be exposed to the arts. I have taught children privately from the ages of 4-10 that were amazing. They brought me more joy just to see their openess to create. They had their own easels and big old button down shirts...and you could hear a pin drop when they started to paint....they were all boys. Yes, it is  true about art at an early age. My adult son, very talented, took private lessons when young. he hadn't pick up a paint brush in 20 yrs. Just finished the most incrediable oil painting in three hours. So there is no expiration date on that kind of early art experience.

Darlene Moore

Ann Stapp wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 7:26 AM

As a child I had art materials available to me, so it was a natural to have them available for my children, and now my grandchildren.  When they visit, the upstairs converted attic is one spot they flock to, where there are always supplies within reach.  They usually  bring the neighbor children around to participate too, which is fine with me.  And the walls of the "attic studio" are full of their colorful masterpieces, brightening up our creative corner of the world.  I like to think it's brightening up their creative minds also.

Ann S.

Julissie wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 7:34 AM

Hi Courtney!

I couldn't agree more. My four year old is a very big part of my art time. She has her own easle. She even knows the "studio music" we play during our art time. When ever I'm painting I always invite her to join me. Even when she declines, I set up her easle w/ all her paper and paints so she can join in when she's feeling creative. She has special clothes, shoes, paints, brushes, & paper that make her feel like she's really doing something important and when she's done I make sure her art work is proudly displayed for the family to see. I also enjoy observing nature with her. I'm teaching her to look beyod a green tree or a blue sky. She is realizing that there are more beautiful colors around us other than the basics we were taught when we were younger. Have a great day!

easel1 wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 8:23 AM

Dear Courtney,

It's true.  Children need nothing to stimulate creativity. It is already deep down inside of them - waiting to explode into the open. All children need is an environment which says : Yes! I believe in you! Go! Tell me who you are and what you see!

Your comments not only state an obvious truth, they transmit a vital message.

We live in times which discourage rather than encourage creativity - an act which more often than not is considered suspect. Even children's "educational or creative" toys focus on their having fun "in just the same way as their friends".

God forbid that they would think or create differently. Being different, thinking differently, analyzing and conceiving differently is worrisome rather than wondrous in our societies. And this can only bode poorly for future generations. Children love to express themselves but when this is repeatedly discouraged they eventually  slink away intio the netherworlds of their technical gadgetry. And when they no longer come out of their rabbit hole. . . we will suddently realise that we have a serious problem on our hands.

A case in point : Recently, I visited one of our (your) big box toy stores. . . to see in what way I could include this environment in my next book on creativity. Well. . . The square footage of the place was monstrous - big enough for staff to wear roller blades.  But the acreage, devoted specifically to anything which might remotely be related to "real and individual" artistic rexpression, was,  in total. . . 1 and a half  6 foot long shelving units. With a store exceeding the 20,000 square foot mark, that seems a bit bizarre if not eerie.

I think that says it all.

Bernard  

on 19 Mar 2010 8:40 AM

i don't usually make comments but this really struck a chord and I hope some readers find this amusing as well as a means of contribution. Related to the reason and connection you mention,  the fondness I had for art in my youth, without any other artists in my family, my connection and support to develop it was limited until I could control this for myself. I reside in an expat communit where there is a lot of displacement and art becomes a tremendous motivator to use time suddenly gained when a spouse gives up a job to fill an international post and "finally has a chance ot do what they always wanted to do"..  The means kids are displaced too and many go back home but for those who stay abroad in summer I decided to run "Kids Art Camp" at a local castle (used as a school), for them.  I developed my own curriculum of classical drawing and the art history of the Beneluxl area. My most fun moment is using the board game I developed to match my curriculum, to test their knowledge in a fun way. One day, a parent came in very perplexed and told me she didn't know what I was telling the kids but her son was unusually quiet. She went up to  check on him and found ti her great surprise and joy, he was drawing and was listening to classical music. As an aside during the game, which I play along wiht them, once I had a brother and sister in the same class together. The sister,  turned out to be a deceiving epitome of youth and innocence, After playing long enough to witness her younger brother approach dangerously close to the winning square, she coyly asked me, "Don't you have any spots that make you have to go all the way back to the start?"  Of course without thinking she might land on it too. The favorite exercise fo the week is always the Van Gogh bedroom lesson, where they learn about perspective in his painting and then have a chance ot draw their dream bedroom. This makes great conversation at the end of the week when we prepare our art exhibtion and design an invitation to invitees , plan refreshment (cranberry  juice in plastic goblets) and show it with lighted candles in the vaulted underbelly of the castle.  Technological gadgets and small doors for pets are de rigeur! So fun to see these and the parents reactions.

nita27 wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 9:31 AM

I am so pleased to have come upon your article.  My dream or calling or whatever you want to call it is to develop a gallery/studio/learning center for children in our community.  They only have art every third day during the school year and there are so many students the art teacher cannot give the attention to a budding artist.   I am putting the word out and already have a couple of youngsters who are extremely interested in getting started.  I need advice on how to set this all up, how to finance the venture, any information anyone could give me would be greatly appreciated.  I am totally committed to this to the point that I am taking classes at an online school so that I can be sure I have the foundation to teach them correctly.  I am 65 years old, in pretty good health, and have been a sub-teacher and paraprofessional in the elementary school.  I need to know what materials I would need to get started and a wild guess at the expense involved.  I am on Social Security and don't make too much.  I would truly appreciate any help that anyone can pass my way.  God Bless.  Nita Couch

knitqueen3 wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 9:37 AM

When my granddaughter was small we took care of her while her mother was working.  We gave her paper and pencils to draw with.  As she got older she became interested with her aunts drawing.  I didn't know what the give her for her 14th birthday and her aunt told me that she wanted a sketch book and really good colored pencils.  It was a great idea.  Her Aunt Linnea is an artist and I let her pick out the right ones.  Now my granddaughter is persuing her drawing.

Sometimes the simple gifts are the ones that encourage our children and grandchildren to pursue their own creativity.

Sincerely,

Cheri Campbell

redclay34 wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 11:32 AM

Back in the 80's when I lived in Houston.  The local mmuseum sponsored an After School art program that was presented at schools around the city.  Artists would sign on for 9 weeks...usually at one school  and we were free to teach a different medium each week for the 2 hour time period..  Children would pay about $35 (remember it was back in the 80's) and we got a small supply of art materials to use from the money collected through the museum.  I'm sure they bargained for the supplies or they were donated.  We were encouraged to use as much free materials as possible so we did things like potato stamped prints, drawing, painting and  I brought clay, as that was my main medium at the  time. We tried all sorts of fun things.  We didn't get paid much ...can't even remember how much, but the fun of seeing the  kids create and try new things more than made up for the lacking  payments.  I wish cities woud find ways to do such programs ...a simple way to introduce art to kids.  Some said it was "after school babysitting" but for the 2 hours weekly  those kids were exposed to something the schools and  most homes were not offering.  I wonder how many were "turned on " to art through that program. many, I hope!

Regards, Yvonne

westphal wrote
on 19 Mar 2010 7:30 PM

For what it is worth, I do not feel the conclusion you have drawn is credible. When we were in school, there were no computers, calculators, or even ball point pens. Trying to compare generational trends is a very risky venture if the data is not kept in proper perspective. It may be more appropriate to point out the overall improvement in academic scores when a legitimate art program is part of the education process.

I had no art classes until Grade 9; by that time I had been oil painting for over two years. When art classes became a reality they were next to useless as the teacher knew less about drawing, color, and perspective than I did.  These experiences do not reflect on the quality of art programs in general, or the programs I see in place today. I have been most impressed with the quality of work displayed by local elementary and secondary school students.

Another publication I recently acquired is DRAWING WITH CHILDREN by M Brookes.  I wish I had discovered this when my daughters were younger; it is a very organised and systematic approach to teaching and sharing drawing with students.

Charles

mclnda wrote
on 21 Mar 2010 6:48 PM

I have two grandchildren one boy a couple months from 12, g-daughter 8 1/2. There mother is in the Air Guard,and a single parent. I have helped with the children's care often.The boy at 2 helped me make homemade bread. This was just the start of (making items by hand). Of course art was a perfect choice to keep them busy.There mother buys art supplies for gifts. The children know grandma does art. They know I will display what they create.

The boy checks out art books from school to bring to me on subjects he knows interest me. For Christmas this year the three of them went to Barnes and Nobles shopping for my gift. A lovely leather sketchbook,and box of charcoal.We will all make use of it. Children need to know what they do is important to others.

This summer when she was just 7 we were at a goodwill store looking at artwork .She got all excited about a art piece.Starry Night to my surprise she starts tellling me all about who did it, as well as the name of the piece She has won art contests  at school before this school year. This past week she had a piece of work from the style of (The late Keith Haring). Her mother plans to have it matted and framed. She wants to be a clothes disigner.

I live in a small rural area in the country. We visit places when we go to the city that have flowers,art,musuems,librarys. Places they can learn from. To think the humble being they have adds such joy to both of their lives is beyond words.

With the schools not having the funds to keep teachers art will not be offered much. Once a week at best. I look forward to help from all of the rest of you. I didn't know it was Youth Art Month. Thank you , Courtney. God Bless you all.

on 28 Mar 2010 6:30 PM

In the days when it was titled "American Artist" I liked recieving these newsletters more. Too bad, it won’t be long now until even the magazine decays. Courtney Jordan is a bad editor. If fine art is to survive, children should be exposed High, fine and pure art and not subjected to a weekend at granny's country studio or mumsy’s “studio music”. Children (and adults) need to acquire the ability to draw well not to seek shorcuts or to try drawing with their imagination (a very bad text I must add.) You are just breeding another bout of bad artists who will invaribly draw, paint, scuplt, etc. and have no real foundation in art.

Mark Ward wrote
on 29 Mar 2010 7:07 AM

Courtney,

I had the experience, let’s say opportunity, to create two (2) watercolor paintings for a fundraiser with a child of 4years old. Yes, they act like successful artist, fearless, creative and paint what they want.  But, one of the most important thing of all, they express their feelings of color, emotion, passion and just the relaxing feeling of seeing all this color develop into something they created.

This is what this 4 year old who just turned five taught me. Not knowing anything about composition, color, light, design, but just the passion and experience of creating something that she liked and enjoyed.

Art is art, no right or wrong way but, the artist way that makes art.  Especially with children, let them express themselves and it will amaze you.

This fundraising event was for children who have Arthritis and the event was called "Art for Arthritis" which 12 local artist where matched with 12 children from the age of four years to seventeen years of age.  All types of art was represented and auctioned off to the highest bidder.

A very long and emotional story short, she sold both of her paintings at the auction (Grandma being the proud owner of two originals) and I have a new painting friend.

Thank you for letting me share.

Mark