Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Art with Teresa (the art of giving back)

Upon my return home from New York I have started volunteering weekly in my mom's 1st grade class. I love it! I go in every Friday and teach art for one hour and it is SO much fun, the kids are so cute!
Anyways, this weekly lesson has somehow gotten the official name "ARt with Teresa."
The other week the kids wrote a poem about our lessons and surprised me with it...

I can't even say what an amazing surprise it was.. it feels so great to be giving these kids an experience they might not have had otherwise. I myself always sketch in pen.. there is something about overcoming the fear of messing up and not having an eraser.. so I have passed this along to the kids. In my lessons they are allowed to use whatever drawing tool they want... as long as it's not a pencil (hence the markers part of the poem).
I was so excited that the next part of the poem was "we think." I honestly could not believe one of the kids had put that in there... that is exactly what I have been hoping to teach them. My goal is to teach them how artists think and how drawing doesn't need to be intimidating if you know how to think and observe. I'm teaching them to break things down into shapes. Drawing is like anything else, in that the more you practice, the better you are. For some reason or another, however, we are told somewhere early on that some people can draw and some can't... so those who can't and need to practice don't even try, because they are worried about how it will turn out. Everybody has 5,000 (or whatever it is) bad drawings inside of them and the faster you get them out the better! I want to teach these kids not to be afraid to make mistakes... not to be afraid of a blank page. I scribble in the corner of a page if I think I'm afraid to mess up, so that way it's already messed up and I won't worry about it. If a drawing turns out poorly and not how I planned, oh well, it was one of the 5,000 bad ones and the next one will be better.

Anyways, the first week I went I decided to stick with just teaching them how to draw Ice Age characters to get them excited. We drew Scrat and Sid and they turned out soo soo cute... I wish I would've taken my digital camera.. but I wasn't thinking. I taught them that even famous movie characters are made out of basic shapes and I challenged them to design their own character. They were all given the assignment of designing the Easter bunny being as it was Easter weekend. Some rabbits had round heads while others were more realistic.. some had clothes, while others had fur, jewelry, and uni brows. It was entirely up to them and they turned out brilliant! (lol, I never liked the coloring dittos in school where we colored in a bunny holding a basket and eggs.. it's so much cooler to design your own).

(oh, I do have a couple of Sid and Scrat pic's because of this darling little girl who went out and bought a sketch book after I showed them mine and she practices in it constantly. She was so excited to show me it the next week and I was able to snag a few pic's of some of the pages)

Week 2- I sort of jumped into the deep end for week 2. The lesson was extremely challenging and I could definitely tell it was a stretch for the kids. I started off making them draw hands.. one of the most feared subjects of many artists.. and not just draw hands... I had them draw their hands as a blind contour drawing. They were not allowed to look at their paper or worry about how it came out.. Blind contour drawing is one of the best ways to force yourself to really really concentrate and observe what you're drawing instead of drawing what you think you see. It was a struggle for a number of the kids. Some were just not okay with drawing a drawing of their hand and not having it look like a hand. Many peaked and just drew 5 or 8 little generic fingers and didn't want to try again. Somehow by the early age of 6 or 7 the notion that some people can't draw has already been implanted in them. I was impressed to see some of the kids truly going completely blind and drawing detailed scribbles of their hands over and over again.. one on top of the other. I was so excited that I held them up and showed them what a cool design it made when it covered the whole paper and how some artists do this just to create an interesting background. Showing this example seemed to help some of the kids who were struggling. The reward for this tough lesson was another movie character, Manny, the woolly mammoth.. granted not the easiest character to draw in the world, but yet again they turned out adorable. (I brought my camera this week, but the batteries were dead and I unfortunately don't have any pictures)

Week 3- Was super successful. I started off yet again by telling them that artists look for shapes when they draw. I also touched on how we see in 3 dimensions.. but paper is flat.. so artist need to find a way to draw shapes that have dimension. We drew a couple cubes and cylinders for practice. I then asked them how many people thought drawing people was hard (almost all the hands shot up, not surprisingly)... I then asked how many people in the room could draw stick figures...
I told them that lots of the time artists just start out with a stick figure, because it's fast, easy, and you can get all the information you need before the person moves. I then continued to show them how it was easy to draw people if we broke it down into simple shapes (I had my little wooden art model with me). The results were amazing! I was so proud of all of them! (pic at the top)
Oh, and lastly.. we ended the lesson with movie characters (again) that were made up of extremely simple shapes.. and this time I had my camera ;)

Anyways.. I really can't wait to continue teaching them all these things I think everyone should be taught at a young age. I don't remember being taught how to draw people when I was in elementary school.. All the art projects were always geared toward having a pretty result to take home to mom and dad (cut and paste, make it pretty, color inside the lines)All of the stuff that makes drawing seem intimidating later on, because you're so worried about the final product. You just have to turn part of your brain off in a way and not worry about how it turns out. That is how you truly learn.. by making mistakes and loads and loads of bad drawings!


Cristin McKee said...

Wow Teresa. This is amazing! You could actually be setting these kids on future careers. I'm really happy for you and your students!

My mom is a second grade teacher down in Florida and although it isn't really permitted in the curriculum, she makes a point of reading fiction to them every day. She's discovered that it's their favorite part of the day and it gets them excited about reading. And when they write about the story they are often excited about doing that too. Yay for sharing your passion with your students!

teresa said...

Thanks so much Cristin!
I'm having such a blast.. it really is an amazing feeling to watch the kids get so excited. :)

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