When I began the Saturday Art Club (as it was called then) my approach was simple. I started with the very basic idea to engage with the visual form, and use it to study objects and ideas closest to us.
Over the last few years of my practice, and some involvement with interacting with children, I’ve observed that the practice of teaching art has become unnecessarily complicated and cumbersome – involving expensive tools, stationery etc.
It was interesting to see that the children came from backgrounds in formal art education either through a previous art class or at school. Most were already initiated into art and craft through formal/conventional structures, bound by rules and guidelines typical to a classroom set-up. What I didn’t anticipate was the couple of sessions and time and effort it took to undo and break through those existing structures and frameworks they already belonged to.
Thinking back to my own years in school, and my early interest in art, I remembered how intimidating and off-putting a structured classroom set-up made me feel. So, I realized if my goal was to help children begin to engage, react and respond to the visual form freely and fearlessly, it was essential to break away from the rules and the pressure to create “pretty” things.
This is where looking outside the field of art education alone, helped my learning, how to initiate and kindle a sense of free exploration in children. As a facilitator there were so many wonderful connections to be made between the formal art education (such as learning perspectives, colour theory, colouring inside the lines etc) and the simple learning through the perspective of each child’s imagination.
By allowing children to explore their own memories, ideas and other visuals they wanted to bring to life, I found a method that balanced the two. This was the beginning to a journey I later titled “Dear Imagination”.
In the 12 months that I interacted with this group of children, it became clear to me that creating an environment that celebrates each child’s uniqueness was the best way to educate myself about what art education really means to me, and where I want to go with this.
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