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Aug 23, 2015

Inspiring Creativity in Visual Arts Lessons

Inspiring Creativity in Visual Arts Lessons.
Many people believe that creativity is naturally a part of Visual Arts lessons, this is not so, do not be fooled by it falling under the Creative Arts umbrella. Creativity by definition means to be original and to use your imagination – most visual arts lessons are step by step, the student follows what the teacher or a set of instructions tells them and the student’s artworks all look the same in the end. This values the product of their artwork over the creative processes, this does not encourage them to use their imagination, think outside the box and be original.

This is not to say there isn’t a place for structured arts lessons; it teaches students specific techniques such as how to use a medium they may not be familiar with, it benefits students who are overwhelmed by choice/open tasks and are important lessons for studying and responding to famous artists. I teach a whole unit of structured lessons on the colour wheel, colour mixing and Wassily KandinskyThe aim of this post is not to discredit structured art lessons, but to provide ideas and inspiration for how to increase your student’s ability to think creatively. Some of the ideas can be applied to structured lessons.

My students’ re-imagination of Kandinsky’s concentric circles

Miss W’s tips for CREATIVE arts lessons:
  1. Think of art as an opportunity to explore and create. Students should learn new techniques but be free to explore, be creative and make pieces of art that are unique. The artwork they create may not be aesthetically pleasing to the adult eye but your student should feel ownership over their artwork.
  2. Demonstrate the whole process rather than teach a lesson step by step. When you demonstrate how to create an artwork, you are scaffolding the students thinking and providing stimulus for their imagination. I have the whole class watch me create an artwork from start to finish – using narration to discuss what I am doing and why, as well as integrating metalanguage such as colour, composition and harmony. Once I have finished I put my artwork away and allow students to create their own version of the artwork. Many will be similar, that’s ok, those students are not ready to be independently creative, and others will surprise and surpass your expectations!
  3. Provide students with reference material. Provide students photographs to create their artwork from, all art is one person’s view or opinion of reality.
  4. Get rid of erasers and do-overs. Visual arts is layered, if students make a mistake encourage them to work it into their artwork, make their artwork better by expanding it or taking it in a new direction. There is no mistake merely an opportunity to change and make their work better than before.

  1. Mount their work and present it nicely. Showing students you value their artwork will give them confidence to take risks and experiment in their artworks.
  2. Create a body of work. Allow students to build on their artworks, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a good art work. Complete the artwork over a couple of lessons, adding more textures or colours.
  3. Play music. Playing music can calm the room and distract the brain, when I play classical music I find my Year 1’s slow down and take their time.

Let’s see it in action!  
I only recently started teaching my students using the product over process ethos, admittedly I was nervous to let go of the control and pass it over to my students, I am more than pleased with the results. This term we are studying Australian animals and landscapes. My students found the thought of skipping pencils and going straight to pens daunting but I believe it made them take a lot more care. They were given a picture of a banksia and asked to study it – look at the lines, the shape and the size. Then to sketch that picture onto a piece of white paper. Each student had a different picture and they were allowed to choose which picture they wanted to use – again giving them ownership over their creation.
The banksia pictures were replicated on black card using coloured pencils and with oil pastels on art paper with edicol dye wash.
Same concept with Lizards:

The next step is for the lizards to be painted, using a chalk outline technique – students draw an outline of their lizard on a large piece of black card. Students fill all the spaces and the background using quality acrylic paint. Once the paint is dry rub off the chalk, leaving a black outline. Then the lizard will be recreated in a 3D form with air drying clay.

Establishing a creative and positive classroom:
Encourage students to look at each other’s art and discuss what they like about it, it reinforces to students that their art is valued and creates a positive atmosphere for art making. Praise specific parts of student’s artworks and encourage their efforts and the time they are taking to create their masterpiece!

The take home message?
Take a step back, allow students imaginations run wild and enjoy the ride! Children’s creativity is endless and if you let them take the reins they will truly amaze you!

About Me:
My name is Miss W and I am a teacher in Australia. I studied Early Childhood, meaning I specialise in teaching Kindergarten to Year 2 students. I currently teach Year 1 and I love it! Teaching infants is a passion of mine, it’s such a crucial age – at this age they will lose their first teeth, start to determine their personality, build lasting friendships, form the foundations for their numeracy and literacy learning and most importantly their teachers at this age can either build a love of learning and create a curious mind or they can create a negative attitude to schooling that can take years to adjust. I aim to be the kind of teacher that always excites, inspires and sparks a light in the students I teach!

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