So here’s a secret: being an art teacher at this point in time is one of the greatest jobs on earth. We get to reap the benefits of this huge digital revolution without being bogged down with the stresses and pressures of testing. Yuck. I don’t like to advertise too loudly how great we have it, because if people find out how much fun this is, then surely someone will decide to give us something to complain about. Not that it’s all easy, and not that it’s all fun, but it’s really quite fun.
Then and now
I grew up loving art, from drawing to painting to sculpting. It was all really great, and I worked hard at it. It gave me something to be proud of, and set me apart from most of my friends. My art teachers never gave a single thought to having me work on a computer. Why would I?
That was then. Now looks nothing like then. If I’m not encouraging my kids to explore all the amazing things that you can do online and using various programs then I’m in denial of what art means to our kids. Art is still drawing and painting, but it’s not limited to paper. It’s in Minecraft, it’s in Photoshop, it’s digital animation and game design. So what should we do in art class? Should we work on paper, mixing paints and working on line quality, or should we be using our Chromebooks? Mrs. Shemansky and I think about this question every day. The struggle, the pull from either end of the art spectrum is a part of every project decision we make. Here, I’ll begin with a few reasons making art by hand makes sense.
You win either way
Nobody would argue, no matter what kind of art you prefer, that you will be better at it if you practice drawing by hand. It’s undeniable. And a student of art who doesn’t learn to draw and paint will probably not do as well in any computer based art making tool, so it makes total sense to continue to teach kids the fundamentals of making art by hand. So whether you want to make paintings by hand or online, You should always start out on paper.
It makes sense
But that’s not the only benefit of making things by hand. When you touch the materials, smell the materials, experience them first hand, you get a connection to your artwork that I find is lacking in many of my digital artworks. Art made by hand is a full sensory experience that can’t be replicated with a computer. Also, I value an artwork that I made with my hands more so than I do a digital artwork. And this may be because that art made by hand is one of a kind, and I can’t reproduce it. A digital artwork can be shared as many times as I choose, and while this is great it also makes it less valuable.
Who needs me to tell you that kids are too plugged in? Not you. You know that already! Putting the Chromebooks away and the iPhone down gives kids a much needed break from having their face in a screen and encourages them to be reflective and engage with the world around them. I have a two year old who would spend half her day looking at my iPad if I let her. I have already starting trying to teach her that she has to ‘interact with real people’ all day, much to her chagrin. But- put a crayon in her hand and VOILA! she drops the iPad and runs to scribble on any and every surface she can find. Sometimes if she can’t find paper she will attempt to draw on me. That I don’t encourage. But all the rest is so good for her and for all kids!
There is a makerspace movement that is ever gaining momentum in schools and communities that seeks to do exactly this- reinvigorate people’s creative spirits by encouraging them to unplug and get connected by making art by hand. Hey, Makers- We’re with you!!