September 19, 2023

A "By-the-Way" Approach to Art Education by Erin Day

A "By-the-Way" Approach to Art Education by Erin Day

This blog post is republished from Alveary Weekly, our weekly newsletter to Alveary members which includes notes, news, answers to member questions of general interest, book tips, and insights on teaching various subjects in a relational way.

Many moms and dads approach me while wringing their hands, at a loss for how to “teach” their children art when they cannot even draw a stick figure. My reply is always to encourage them that of course they can draw a stick figure, and I proceed to pull out of them what they can do–baking, home décor, fashion, woodworking, gardening, house painting, furniture building, do-it-yourself projects, etc. I turn the focus back to these things as art.

So many of us have a black-and-white understanding of what “art” is. The common conception is a painting on a canvas that will be accepted into a museum or gallery. This is an unfortunate understanding and one I think is propagated by the enemy of our souls. In the beginning, God created. He is a creative God. He made man in His Image. “So God created man in His own Image, in the Image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). We are created to create.

"We are created to create."

When God created, He looked at His Creation and called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He didn't cut and paste the same leaf on every tree. He carefully crafted each kind of tree, each hue of green, and each Autumn color the tree would beautifully transition to before dropping its leaves (if it is deciduous of course and depending on where in the world it was placed). God is so creative that He put all different kinds of trees all over the world. We see different beauty as we traverse the globe. And He didn't stop there! Think flowers, fells and waterfalls, birds, giraffes, and reptiles! Think of the patterns in lightning bolts, dried earth, and other dendritic items.

When you begin to ponder how to teach your children “art,” you may be wondering specifically how to draw or paint, but I want to encourage you to teach through what you know, where your strengths lie. If you are great at making bread, talk about the shapes, flavors, textures, and colors of bread- there is such a variety of values in bread! If you enjoy decorating your home, talk about the color palette, patterns, and textures that you choose and why. If you paint houses for a living, talk about selecting the right colors or color-matching swatches that customers give you. Take your student to the paint store with you and watch as the technician mixes the paints. It will astonish you to see which hues they pour into the base to make that perfect color. If you are a scientist, marvel at the patterns, colors, and textures in bacteria!

"teach through what you know"

In the above paragraph, I have applied the formal elements- color, value, shape and texture, and the principles of design: rhythm (patterns) and form (applied shape). I have indirectly spoken of the principles of unity and variety. These are the two principles that cause patterns, textures, colors, etc. to work together and create a beautiful space. Without an understanding of these principles, we get chaos and clashing. Most of us “get it” without having to go out and get it.

This is how you teach your students art. Teach them how to appreciate and understand the beauty in everyday doings. Not every student will go on to be a professional artist. That's not really what we are aiming for anyway.

"Teach them how to appreciate and understand the beauty in everyday doings."

Our desire is to teach the understanding of what makes beauty, and I want to encourage you that you are doing that by the way. Always remember that education is a discipline, an atmosphere, a life!

Erin Day is a child of God, wife, mom of four girls and an artist. She has been a student of art for almost thirty years and still has so much more to learn! Erin has been in the field of art education since 1999, holding a B.F.A. in Art Education with a concentration in Ceramics and Minor in Psychology. Erin has taught in settings from preschool through retirement centers. She works in all media from oils to printmaking to ceramics and enjoys them all immensely! Erin has been homeschooling and studying Charlotte Mason for 15 years and is a member of the Alveary curriculum team where she uses her expertise to introduce Alveary students to art and handicrafts.

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