Teaching art as homeschoolers can sometimes be a bit daunting, can’t it? Eva Soukal, of arTree digital art magazine is here to help. She gives us very approachable advice on avoiding a few common errors when teaching art. After reading, be sure enter the giveaway that follows! It’s for a full year of art ideas and advice from Eva. She’s giving away full year subscriptions of her digital Artree magazine to three lucky winners! See details below.
How to Avoid Making Mistakes When Teaching Art to Kids
by Eva Soukal
There is no right and wrong when it comes to art but is the same true about the way we teach art to our children? What can we do to make sure our little artists remain artists for as long as possible, hopefully forever?
Don’t copy the masters!
I am not saying that you should stop talking to your kids about Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso. Just the opposite! Talk to them, take them to galleries and show them as much art as possible. But when you create an art inspired by the artists, don’t copy their work. Use it to teach your child something about a certain art element or technique, nothing more. You can use Pissarro to explain one-point perspective, Hundertwasser to teach about architecture or Seurat to demonstrate secondary colors.
Show the kids the things you are trying to highlight and then let them explore it on their own, with a little bit of your guidance when needed. Don’t produce cookie-cutter art. It is ok if the result is not perfect or super-neat as long as it is unique and you and your child had a good time working on it!
Don’t help, much.
Don’t be too fast to jump to the rescue. Your child can probably do a lot by himself. Let him. Wait for him to ask for your help and then try guiding him through the process before you take over. If he cannot figure out what he doesn’t like on his painting, help him by asking questions and talking about it. If he gets frustrated because he made a mistake, don’t give him a new paper, at least not right away. Ask him if there is a way he can use the mistake as a part of his work. Every spill can become a flower, a cloud or a monster. If he gets stuck, show him the Beautiful Oops! book by Barney Saltzberg. It should help.
Make a Mess
Sometimes it is easy to focus on the result instead of the process. Don’t forget that it is okay to have fun without having a beautiful piece of art you would like to hang over your fireplace or send to your mother. Some of the projects the kids in my classes enjoy the most are the messy ones – like Louise Nevelson’s collages out of found objects.
When they made those, they learned about collaboration, they challenged ways they saw ordinary objects, they solved a lot of creative problems and challenges and they had a blast! It may be a messy piece of cardboard not everybody would hang on their wall but it was one of their favorite lessons.
‘Good Job’ Kills Creativity
We all said ‘good job’ or ‘that is the most beautiful flower I have ever seen’ from time to time. We want our kids to feel good about their art and we want to encourage their creativity. The problem is that an empty praise like this can actually hurt their creativity instead of nurturing it.
Researchers found out that kids who are praised for doing a ‘good job’ at a creative task tend to stumble the next time they do it. Why does this happen? Well, would you take bold risks when you knew that taking the safe route would guarantee you the reward? Kids can become less likely to experiment with art because they want to please us. And they may become more likely to feel pressured by our praise to always make the best painting possible, which is a rather impossible task.
Again, I am not saying that you should not praise your kid’s art. On the contrary! The only trick is to know what to say. Praise the kid’s hard work rather than the result. It may be difficult in the beginning but it will get easier as you try it:
Instead of: ‘Good job! That is a cute flower!’ Try saying: ‘Wow, I see you’ve used a lot of green and yellow in your work today!’
Instead of saying: ‘That is so beautiful. Is that a dog?’ Say: ‘Look at those horizontal lines going through that big oval. Can you tell me about the painting?’
Instead of saying: ‘This is the best painting I’ve seen!’ Say: ‘You are really working hard on this painting! I like how you mixed your colors here.’
Probably the most important rule is to have fun! There are so many artists you can discover, so many techniques you can try and so many art materials you can explore… there is something for everybody!
Find the things that interest your child and build upon it. Does he like comic books? Introduce him to Lichtenstein. Cakes? Oldenburg. Cutting with scissors? Matisse. Space exploration? Starry Night by Van Gogh. It’s easier than it may seem. Have fun and stay creative!
A little about Eva:
My name is Eva Soukal and I am a mom of two little artists. I publish arTree, a digital art magazine for kids and I work hard on bringing art education back to schools through arTree program for art docents. I also teach after-school art as well as Little Artists art classes for preschoolers. I have always loved working with kids and I am very passionate about sharing my love for art with them.
Now enter the giveaway!
Enter for your chance to win a free year subscription to arTree Digital Magazine! You’ll get beautiful art project ideas and tips right to your inbox. I have really enjoyed my subscription because it’s so inspiring to me. I always enjoy getting them and seeing what new idea Eva has come up with!
Want to see it? Check out this free preview issue of arTree: http://artreekids.com/trial.