Teaching visual arts

Understanding the creative process

It is imperative to bear in mind that in making art, the process of making is as valuable as the final product. The emphasis is on exploring and experimenting with the expressive possibilities of different materials, tools and media and with the choices they offer for different tasks. Talking about their work and, when appropriate, as they work is central to this process.

The atmosphere during the art class must always be challenging, motivating and supportive and must allow the children to express understanding of their world in a personal way. The teacher must constantly be alert to their needs and successes to ensure that they are involved in a creative rather than in a passive or imitative way.

To focus concentration and encourage effort as children work, the teacher moves among them, discussing, questioning and, where necessary, directing observation and helping to rekindle interest that has waned or courage that has failed.

The teacher should be sensitive to when such intervention would be helpful and when not. When children are disappointed by their efforts, their difficulties are discussed to help them pinpoint the problem area. Positive aspects should also be discussed, for example how well they saw and interpreted a particular curve, shape, colour or mood. Questions should be designed to elicit a visual and at times kinesthetic response and to stimulate the children to further concentration and involvement:

  1. I like that colour: how did you make it?
  2. Was that your favourite jumper/dress? Did it have a design on it?
  3. Do you remember how your legs went when you were running?
  4. Can you show me the way the dog’s mouth went when he snarled at you?
  5. Can you make a big movement with your hand to show me the way that twig curves/the flow of your friend’s long hair/water going down the sink?