Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Getting back to important things!

My attic studio. A good friend designed IT for me in the 1980s - in use at last. The painting on right  of  a stream , vines and bush is my attempt to revive an earlier effort. Top left is a new painting of Paritutu volcanic plug - heavily influenced by Dick Frizzell. Below is a bird image and out of sight a figure composition and the beginnings of a portrait of a very important woman in my life. I have no idea how any (except the bush painting) will turn out - a metaphor for life.

After years/decades of being distracted by educational issues I have decided to return to having go at painting. In the mid sixties I completed a series of paintings but since then I have only dabbled, mostly unsuccessfully.

Anyway the time now seems right as I have lost interest in school visiting because most of what I see doesn't impress me that much what with the emphasis and time being spent on literacy and numeracy to the exclusions of other equally important learning areas. Inquiry learning I see lacks the real depth I used to admire in classrooms that placed inquiry central and most of the art these  days is formulaic and conformist - more illustration than creative art. This is a shame because inquiry  and creative expression are the  basis of all learning and obviously is inclusive of various forms  of literacy and authentic aspects of numercay.

Most of all the absence of a wide range of creative arts means students are missing out some important lessons in life - lessons I am now experiencing as I begin to become involved in painting. First there is the issue of inspiration to create something personal, and then there is the even more difficult job of mastering the various techniques involved - which can only be acquired as the work progresses.

The most important lesson learnt from any creative activity is that realizing a piece of art is an evolving and sometimes messy process where each stroke of paint creates a new decision about what to do next. In this respect completing a piece of art is a metaphor for life itself -  which more often than not  unfolds in unplanned and unexpected ways.

This creative - or learning process -  made me think of an American  Junior school teacher Marion Diamond. Diamond writes with insight gained from experience  about the importance of 'unknowablity' in art with five year old -and how it is important to take advantage of whatever evolves - a form of constant decision making. And, at the end of the process ( which is not aways easy to determine) , the feelings of great satisfaction that any creator gets. And to complicate things even more the thoughts that will have arisen that will lead to further acts of creativity.

This is what Marion had to say: 'A critical component of art work....is an acceptance of the unknowability of the end product....I have had to learn that mistakes are not only inevitable but necessary and useful, and that dealing with them - untangling some knot- takes us somewhere unexpected.'

Once again this is  in contrast with all the 'intentional teaching' now seen as 'best practice' in our schools resulting in a conformity of product devoid of personality. And as well the importance of art as a form of expression is demeaned.

'Teaching art has to do with the difference between trusting children and believing you must teach them everything about a subject or they won't know'. This brings in the role of the teacher. Julie writes that teachers must leave space for their work - children must make the decisions, do the thinking, use their imagination, and take responsibility for their own work.

Teachers must be careful not to impose their ideas on students. Julie writes that teacher's role is subtle. Explorations can be guided, parameters set but still open enough 'to permit each child's experience and unique preferences to inform' their work.

'The aim is help children to develop their abilities, to see, design, use colour, to help them extend their visual vocabularies, to help them gain clarity and conviction, while making something that is authentically theirs'.

'I aways put the children's expressiveness first.Art activities were valued because the class environment was rich in art, part of all content areas, they illustrated poems, drew the classroom animals and plants, printed with the leaves we'd collected in the park, and made collages to illustrate children's information about the animals they were studying. They used maths material to make elaborate and beautiful patterns'.

 Couldn't have expressed the importance of creativity better myself.

And already I know the feelings of frustration and achievement beyond anything that can be measured.


Wayne Morris said...

Excellent and not before time!!

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks Wayne -as you say not before time!

Bruce Hammonds said...

As I try to make the paint do what I want it to do the more I appreciate the creative process as a powerful learning experience. And this applies to any form of creativity. Planning and realisation are two different things - unless you paint by numbers.