I was delighted and honored to present an artist residency at Summerville Elementary. The four day workshop was the culmination of all five first-grade classes’ study of plants.
I love the challenge of taking what might be a boring subject and turning it into a creative, sensory opportunity.
The first day was a lesson in drawing. Making art led to so many experiences and learning opportunities, but our main theme was:
“Getting our hands to do what our heart wants.”
- What does your heart want?
- What does your eye see?
- What does your hand do?
“Art is what happens while you’re trying to get your hand to draw and paint what your eye sees and what your heart wants.”
What children want is to gain some control over their world; they want to capture it. I hated to be the one to inform them this will never happen and it probably wouldn’t be very much fun, even if they could. The good news, however, is that we can still gain mastery over ourselves and learn amazing skills. Drawing is a skill that can be learned.
We started by imitating abstract shapes and putting them in position within a rectangle. Then we moved to blind contour drawing. Even though these kids were too young to really be able to grasp this skill (age 10 is the best age for this), a surprising number were able to make momentary connections between their eye and their hand. They grasped the idea of giving themselves over to something else to learn, draw and paint with more authority. Did you know this super power is available simply by pressing a little button behind your ear?
In our second 45 minute session, we applied our new superpower to an actual watercolor botanical study, using real watercolor paper of course. We also had the privilege of working from a live specimen, uprooted and pinned to a white board, so we could actually look at a real plant. Some of the kids opted to label all the parts, such as flower, leaf, root. We got to combine science and art, which the teachers liked very much.
The children were also very concerned that the plant was no longer receiving water and nutrients through it’s roots, pinned to the board. We touched the roots and we drew and painted from nature, using our budding drawing and painting skills.
NEWS FLASH: I was able to return the poor plant into the ground and by some miracle, it is now thriving in our garden.
This girl was upset when her teacher had to correct her behavior so we started talking about Van Gogh and how sad he was. And yet, somehow he painted some of the most joyful paintings mankind has ever known. We talked about how this was possible? Deep.
We learned a lot about many things together. Here’s a small glimpse of a couple other experiences we enjoyed last week: