You can check out some of my videos on how to create some wonderful art projects for all ages (I've included a YouTube link on the right hand side of my blog). What I like about these is that you use very inexpensive material and you can apply them to large groups of students. The way my consultation contract works is that I cover six, 45 minute classes in one school day, that's about 150 students. They each create the same lesson until I see all 500+ or so students in approximately 2 weeks. I do this in several schools so I only go to each site twice per week. With 10 years of experience as art consultant, I've learned what works best for my students to understand, create and learn about a new art concept, topic or idea, especially when working with such high number of students. I try to simplify my lessons as best as possible so that my students, regardless of age, are capable of producing a beautiful masterpiece!
Creating an art lesson is like creating a work of art. As an artist and art consultant, I have found these two to go hand in hand for they both take time, dedication and creativity. Artists and art educators both seek ideas and inspiration in order to achieve successful results. Yet, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with so much information that we don’t know where to begin or how to make use of what is available. With so many sources, we can find ourselves battling in search for an idea that really works. The question is, how can we apply creative ideas in our art lessons when there is so much out there?
This blog is for all art advocates: parents, educators, artists, and any art adventurers looking into promoting the arts among younger generations. It gives insights and tips on mediums and how to apply them strategically to create fun, educational and engaging art lessons on just about any subject.
When I first started teaching art in 2006, I had no idea what materials to use with my students other than crayons, markers, paint, pencils and paper; nor did I know what to teach or where to start for that matter. I was an artist, not an art teacher, but the principal at my school figured that if I was able to produce art, I would also be able to teach it. So, I went along with the flow, thinking that I’d be just as good teaching art as producing it.
This is how my journey in teaching the arts began. I didn’t know what to expect and from one day to another, I was faced with a crowd of little faces eagerly waiting for me to bring down the glory. It all was so sudden to me that I did not know where to start, or how to start. So, I relied on my own intuition and creative nature to guide me. Thinking of various ways to introduce the arts to elementary school students without any formal guidance of some sort nor training, I made up my own art lessons based on ideas I found online, books, nature, and other sources. I was soon on my way to a start-up career that not many people do for a living. I became a “traveling artist” pushing a cart of art material around and executing a 45 minute art lesson to each class at a time until going to every classroom in the school and then starting all over again with a different lesson a week after that. I even found humor to my job as teachers would joke around when they’d see me out and about with my cart, “Get your hot dogs! Get your hot dogs!” Young and full of energy, and enjoying what I did, I was just having the time of my life. I was getting paid for something I loved to do- something that ever since childhood I was passionate for: the arts. And to be sharing it with the little ones was even more delightful.
My search in lesson planning became intensive after sadly finding out that many students weren’t able to produce a work of art by solely relying on their intuition and imagination. They needed structured guidance and step-by-step procedures, and if they didn’t have that, their effort diminished; for some, to the point of giving up. Since art was something they didn’t have in their classroom though, it soon became a privilege and an incentive to many students who were not performing at grade level. Now, I was faced with keeping them motivated in learning about art and basic mediums like crayons, markers, paint, pencils and paper were just not enough. I began exploring various mediums and topics to keep them engaged. Simultaneously, I was learning from them much more than they were learning from me.
Not only were students teaching me how to teach art, but to also hold high expectations of their capabilities. I learned that if my art lessons were fun and challenging, I was able to keep their focus throughout the lesson and that the results were quite impressive. I also learned to have fun with them while instructing for they also had great fun creating. My ultimate goal for each lesson became: to explore, create and enjoy art. Students should have an opportunity to express themselves artistically through exploration, creativity and enjoyment. When this happens, they are geared towards a more fulfilling art experience.
I have seen students who feel so ashamed of their art piece in the end that they try to hide it from the view of others at all cost. Thus, in my instruction, I make sure to constantly reinforce exploration, creativity and enjoyment and affirm to my students that there is no such thing as mistakes in art. I have found that a positive mindset and constructive support really help those in need of encouragement when it comes down to it. They learn to rely on their own intuition and become more independent thinkers, solving their way through any challenges and accepting their art as unique as they are.
After the first few years, I realized that I was doing something right once I started getting calls from other principals to also teach art in their schools. With so many requests, I often wanted to split myself into many of ‘me’ in order to meet the high demand. I also did not want to wear myself down, especially once I realized I was serving five different schools at a time and working several after school art programs. With thousands of students to work with, I had to find ways of being efficient with my time and my art budget, so I developed strategies that helped me as an art consultant and that I will now share with you in this blog.
These strategies are based on mediums that have worked well for me but you can always alter the medium according to your needs. I have also included some tips on how to work with and manage your mediums for successful results. I hope you find these tips useful.
Get to know your art medium:
One of the best ways in getting to know your art mediums is putting them to practice yourself prior to the art lesson. By working with the art medium yourself, you’ll know specifically what materials you will need and how to use them. I do this all the time before I actually present an art project to my students. By doing so, I automatically know what works best, what doesn’t work and how difficult working with a specific medium can be, mainly when working with little ones or special ed. Getting to know your art mediums can also help you avoid the hassle of improvising all the time, especially when you are limited in time or when you are all caught up trying to make things work for you and a handful of students that are eagerly waiting for your guidance. When you practice using your medium beforehand, you are better able to focus on what is more important, making sure the students are able to work with it themselves.
Manipulate your medium to engage your crowd:
When you put your mediums to practice, you can twitch things to your favor and creating new art lessons will just come naturally. I have found that you can teach just about any subject matter: artist, historical theme, concept, idea, culture, standard, etc .,through means of art. Some students are even better able to grasp what they learn this way. The challenge relies on how to keep them engaged. When you manipulate your mediums, not only do you find multiple usage for the same item, but you also expose students to different ways of creating beautiful art, and thus, being creative in the process. This keeps them engaged and curious about implementing new ways in working with the same medium.
Explore fun mediums:
Don’t limit yourself and explore what’s out there. There are infinite sources, art materials, techniques, and approaches to art that simply sticking to one medium is not enough. You can create wonderful art projects that are engaging, educational and fun using low cost and easy to acquire materials. The resources are out there and your possibilities on creativity are endless. We may limit ourselves because of budget cuts and our supply list may be reduced down to but a few items, but there are ways of getting around limited resources when we know where to look and how to use art material effectively and strategically. Rather than limiting them, let your students explore and open up to endless possibilities of creating wonderful works of art. Remember always to explore.
Keep it Safe:
I’ve found safety to be on my priority list when creating an art project for my kids. It is very important to handle safety responsibly with your students and discuss the do’s and don’ts with them so that they know what to expect and how to handle the material adequately. Before starting each lesson, for instance, I talk about the materials we will be working with and demonstrate how to use them. This helps them understand the importance of safely working with mediums that they may not be familiar with.