Monday, June 18, 2007

Observation and learning styles

The results of some serious looking by a ten year old who has learnt the 'secret' of observation.

One skill, not taken seriously by many schools, is that of learning to really observe -too many children look but do not see. The key to observational drawing is simple - look - draw - look - draw - until finished. Often students look once and then fall back on cliches they have in their heads!

In the 60s, when the beginnings of creative education were being established in New Zealand, observing was not encouraged as it was thought it limited children's curiosity. This in turn was a reaction to a conformist approach to 'art' in the 1940s that emphasized copying.

Observational art is now established as a common practice in many schools but, all too often, it is seen as an isolated task and not the beginning of the creative process. This is a shame because, if it is not extended, it may be a limiting process emphasizing realism over imagination.

The first thing for teachers to remember is that all students have their own 'style' of drawing and if this is recognised then all drawing will reflect the personal style of the young artists. This does not mean that students ought not be assisted to look carefully - quite the opposite - it is just a warning not to be so 'good' a teacher that all drawings look the same.

While drawing students need to be encouraged to 'slow the pace' of their work to allow them to notice patterns, shapes, textures and colours - as well this 'slowing the pace' gives time for teachers to come along side their students to assist as necessary.

As students are focusing on drawing it is an idea to ask them to use their imagination to think about the object they are drawing. How did it come to be as it it? What will happen to it? What might the object symbolize - what similes or metaphors come to mind? One idea is to select a small aspect of the object and to draw, when enlarged and painted, such a drawing will be the basis for a piece of abstract art ( except to the artist). Drawing can also be 'deconstructed' and redrawn into a new shape. This might lead into a study of the artistic process used by some artists.

Students might also be asked to reflect on the feelings they get when they look at what they are drawing - such ideas might be developed into small thought poems.

What questions come to mind that they might want to know more about? How did it get to look like it does now? Such questions could well be the beginning of an in-depth study.Imagine students drawing a photo of an ancient castle, or a spider, or a symmetrical object.

Observation is more than just drawing.

It is possibly the most basic skill of all. As such it ought not be limited to an isolated activity; it is far too important.

The students who see more, have more thoughts, will develop a greater vocabulary - this surely is the beginning of literacy.

And they will have developed a range of ways of interpreting their environment and their experiences.

See articles on our website for further ideas.


Anonymous said...

Learning to look - you are right it is a neglected skill.

Anonymous said...

More art, more observation, more creativity - less boring teachers' plans.

Bruce Hammonds said...

It does seem to me that we intellectualize learning far too much and in the process downplay the sensual and emotional aspects.

Helping students become aware of ther environment ( educating all their senses plus exercizing their imagination) and valuing how they feel about whatever they do would seem to be the first basic of learning.

From such positive experiences 'emerge' the expressive use of language, the arts and the development of students' interests.