Originally Posted by missnoodlesmom
Quick question about art - for those of you with kids who are gifted in art, do you try to channel it with classes and instruction or do you provide materials but hold back instruction? Up until this point she's not been in any type of class or camp because I've wanted her to explore her passion without "pruning". Thoughts?
There was a time when I thought my youngest was gifted in art. Now I look back and see that it was mostly just passion, focus, and her general intellectual giftedness allowing her to master certain media and skills at a younger age, to develop an artistic aesthetic to fairly sophisticated levels as a very young kid. She spent a year at age 3.5-4.5 immersed in watercolour painting and turned out some really remarkable stuff. At 9, well, she draws and paints well, but the art obsession was replaced by others and I wouldn't say she's particularly gifted as an artist.
Anyway, the gifted adult artists I know have all talked about how important it is to steer clear of art classes of the "how to" variety. These tend to constrain children's artistic sensibilities, reduce their creativity, reduce their engagement with their artwork, and funnel them into very rigid thinking about what constitutes "good art." Kids this age have a tendency to very black and white thinking, are hard-wired for mimicry and are driven to want adult approval. All of which tends to lead them into cookie-cutter-style art if they're in instructional situations. My artist friends have told me that they spent a year or more at art college having to "unlearn" all that how-to-draw-or-paint-properly stuff they absorbed in middle childhood and adolescence to unmask the raw creativity they once had as young children.
There is a textile artist who lives near us and occasionally runs workshops for children 8-12. They are the ideal art class for kids if you ask me. The instruction is more along the lines of guidance and inspiration, and is very open-ended. She works a lot on awakening the kids' sensibilities on how to see. Noticing the character, the balance, the juxtaposition of shapes or colours, the stark contrast here, the way the eye is drawn first here and then along this line here... She introduces the kids to a variety of media and to appropriate ways to use the media, suggests techniques, but really REALLY encourages them to be their own people, to pour their own ideas into what they're creating. She does this by creating an atmosphere that's calm and incredibly respectful, a few suggestions to get balls rolling, and then using that same graciously observant eye to validate what the kids's efforts produce. She never measures things against some implied external standard of "good." Her comments honour what is true and interesting about each child and each child's work, and there's genuine respect and pleasure in her observations. "I know you said this was an accident, how thick this part was. But do you see how the green part over here pulls the eye and balances it out? I really like how that works. It's a very bold piece with a lot of strength."
These art classes have been wonderful for introducing my kids to media and techniques and ideas they might not have encountered otherwise, thus freeing them up for more exploration and experimentation. They have been a wonderful way to show them that art is important stuff that real grown-ups take seriously and do for a living. They've been a great way to feel a part of a creative community.
But I think the wrong sort of art classes can be quite damaging to a child's artistic impulses. So I would be very careful to vet any prospective classes beforehand. Find out about the aims of the class, the philosophy of the instructor and the inter-personal atmosphere.