We are finding our “VOICE”

28 09 2013

Artists usually have an idea as to what they want to create within a few minutes of the art teacher explaining the lesson to the class.  The teacher sets up exercises to help guide all the students and help them achieve success on the techniques.  Art history is usually mixed into the concept so the art class can see how other artists handled the same materials or ideas.  Not all students enrolled in a visual art class are innate artists, they may love to work with their hands, want a class they perceive as easy, or just appreciate the process.  In any visual art class we the art instructors have to reach all levels of interest, ability, and talent.  The lesson needs to be attainable and challenging.  The lesson also needs to fit the budget, space, and class time schedule.  This is the logistics of the daily balancing act the visual arts instructor has to face hourly.  Students may enter the studio really excited to get started and the very same student the next day is not engaged in the process at all.  It could be artists block or emotional stress from other factors outside our class.

The work in the studio must continue and we are the people who need to link and motivate the individuals in our studios to attain a level of success.  I have at arm’s length physical examples, books, and scratch paper.  I also have wonderful students who are willing to talk, share, and encourage.

Body Map

Body Map

This week we had a series of lessons move from learning exercises to projects.  I have built in challenges and expectations for the students to demonstrate.  I also am always asking them to resolve the lesson with what they want to express.  Students need to find their “voice”.  This is the number one complaint I get.  “Why can’t you tell me what to do?”  I just keep asking them questions, “what do you want to say, what do you want it to look like, what is the emphasis, what effect are you trying to achieve?”

Figuring it out

Figuring it out

Now- when I walk around the studio I hear students talking about their works in progress and I hear my students using the same line of questioning.  I love it.  More and more I see my students struggling with how to express themselves  NOT just getting the assignment completed.  Yes- this is an artist studio.  We explore, we experiment, we have some limited success sometimes, but other times we rock it!

Body Map Progress

Body Map Progress

We had a formal AP ART critique and we were looking at our Body Maps.  This a lesson with a theme based on themselves as the artist and their journey.  The students could select the medium, size, and imagery.  We had portrait style pieces, symbolic imagery, oil paintings, collage, photography, and low relief.  We have great variety and excellent discussions during the process.

During the critique students made conclusions and revelations about themselves and how their message is delivered.  I also was pleased that my voice was not the strongest, loudest, or most critical.  My students do care about the quality of each other’s works and do want success.  The more critical evaluations are handled with care but also with encouragement.  This was our first formal critique and we are not totally finished with the whole class but I am encouraged.

It has been years of cultivating a culture of creating an artist studio.  It has been carefully crafted to be inclusive and supportive.  The work in my studio is not for the value of a grade but value for the individual.  Yes- we get grades but the grades will fade over time but the work of art will hopefully live within the walls of the artists or a relative for a much longer time.

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