On Process Art vs. Setting Boundaries

MerMagSimpleScenesPainting1

So it’s been quiet on the blog as of late. This usually just means that I am up to my neck in motherhood and several projects…projects that I’m getting crazy excited to share with you when the time is right!

The boys are rapidly wrapping up school and we are also in the middle of moving (yes, we’re terribly sad to leave this home – our favorite by far. And let’s be honest, there are few things in life that stress me out more than moving…big deep breath…) so things are a bit hectic to say the least.

And to keep little hands busy while we toil away we of course often have a few art supplies on hand. I don’t do a lot of process art projects on my blog – where it’s all about the experience of working with the medium as opposed to the end result but I do feel like it’s valuable. Kids love it and it’s a good opportunity to familiarize themselves with art mediums, color and their own inclinations. And it’s just a nice release for them.

MerMagSimpleScenesPainting2

Having said that…I don’t think it’s the only avenue of artistic expression for children. Often times we think we have to let the child choose everything…the colors, the medium, the topic, etc. We’re afraid that if we put too many parameters on their art, that we will be stifling them, not letting our kids really express themselves, etc. But through my artistic journey I have found that nothing gets the creative juices flowing like “restrictions”. If you narrow your options, then all of the sudden the ideas just start flowing…We’ve all heard “Necessity is the Mother of Inventions” right? So rings true with creativity and art. Take for example Picasso. He was an exceptionally talented realist for a while. But this is not the art that people immediately think of when they reference Picasso. After this he transitioned into what we call his “blue” period where he literally painted everything in blue. (this is my fav period of his). Through this restriction his voice suddenly began to reveal itself and people took note. He then went on “restricting” himself and the cubist Picasso we know and love today was largely born out of this shift in approach and how he viewed the world through his art.

Another way of looking at it is by comparing the learning of visual art to other artistic fields, such as dance. Of course the parallels are not perfect (as all art forms have their own unique parameters and applications – and I know that mastering the steps to the Samba is measurable unlike say mastering the art being a cubist painter) but bear with me as I still think it’s an worthwhile comparison. Take for example free style dance. It’s great for kids as it helps them to let loose, to familiarize themselves with their bodies, to exercise and to just let the world go and boogie. It’s great fun right? But when it comes to learning dance you wouldn’t stop there. If you want your child to learn dance as a skill you would enroll them in a class that taught them a specific type of dance, such as ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, etc. You would perhaps expose them to a number of techniques so that they could then discover which style suited them best. And of course within this process you would assume the teacher would teach a specific technique and expect your child to abide by it. They teacher wouldn’t say, “Oh look at Tommy over there. He’s not doing any of the steps or following any of the directions so we’ll just let him do his thing…I won’t ask him to change what he’s doing as I’m afraid it would stifle his creativity”. No, the teacher would kindly assist Tommy by helping him to connect with the dance technique and would then expect him to follow the steps to the best of his abilities. I believe visual art is very much the same. To actually help our children understand color, shape, design, form and more we need to not only expose them to the processes of it but we need to put parameters on their work. Limit their color pallete, their use of medium, their subject matter, technique and more. This not only helps a child learn about specific mediums but you are in turn teaching them the value of good art and design.

I’m a firm believer that art is a skill that can be taught (and by that I don’t mean, if you paint this horse exactly like so and so says, you’ve succeed – I merely mean that you can teach what is strong about past works of art even if it’s up for controversy – you can teach why this is so, etc.) and that creativity is something that can and really must be cultivated (for all walks of life, artist or not). Yes some kids will be better at it, just as some pick up baseball or the piano as if they had a knack for it from the get-go, but all kids will benefit from the thoughtful exposure to art. Exposure where sometimes limits and boundaries are a natural and expected part of the learning process. And trust me, you kids will thank you for it. Their confidence will grow as they see that yes indeed they have the ability to create amazing things, once given the proper instruction, technique and tools.

7 Responses to “On Process Art vs. Setting Boundaries”

  1. Rosa

    Thank you for this ‘lesson’. I totally agree with you! Also in this case less is more!
    Waiting for you reveal yor projects.

    Sará fantastico!

    Reply
  2. Cecilia

    I really hate the moving part of moving to. Packing all your stuff is really stressful and it always amazes me how it can be so much! I am sending you a virtual pat on your back for every box you pack 🙂 You really got me thinking about how we aproach art over here. I think I am going to try and set up some limits and see what happens.

    Reply
  3. Artist in LA LA Land

    Wow! I love what you said about visual art, teaching kids it and your metaphor to dance. I could not agree more with you! I believe this too. Thank you for your elegant way of putting it.

    Good luck on your move. Yes, it is very stressful. I’m glad you have some art supplies on hand for the kids.

    I can’t wait to see what other projects you’ve been doing. Best wishes to you & your family!

    Reply
  4. Gina

    I’m new to you but, feel like an “old friend” — I could easily play here! What a great site.

    … sharing your end of the year (and other) blitz but, loving this article and wanted to applaud. I couldn’t agree more! Our house and the environments we share with kids combine both aspects you refer to. We live in Sweden, which I affectionately sometimes refer to as a “Montessoru/Waldorf” world — without restrictions or the word “wrong;” but our kids attend a (real) French school where things can be very specific and spelled out — the contrasts to learning in just about everything are so extreme and I find the combination to be tremendously stimulating for the children. What strikes me, though about the French school is that the French, more classical and restricted, approach pulls something out of all the children in such a profound way — both those who are instictive artists and those who are NOT and I love this… Not only does it install creativity, but also knowledge and awareness of art and creativity in general. (And to to it a step further, has give me extensive ah ha moments about French living in general…) The French teaching we experience is to share the cultural masters: from Picasso to Cezanne to Nikki St.Phaul — Picasso self-potraits, Cezanne landscapes after field trips and Nikki St. Phauls, too, after visiting a scultpure park and in conjunction with the human body —- after all, if you try to re-create, for example, a Mondrian… well, the odds are that your art is going to look pretty nice with these rules — and the restrictions or guidelines of emulating a learned Master offer full value. After all, these artists were all masters who studied the masters and then, took these ideas apart and made them their own. I completely agree with you and can’t wait to return to your site (… when the blaze of the end of the year turns to a glow, too!) Yes, to exploration but, don’t overlook specifics — these are foundations to learning and growth. Thank you so much for this great article.

    Reply

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