When people ask me what I do, there’s never really just one answer. I write, I paint, I make books, I teach, I blog, I coach, I give talks. And, depending on the time of year, I can be doing all these things simultaneously. This summer, I am working at the arts council in Princeton, NJ where I teach art camp. Last week, I had a group of teenagers for five days of a class I called Explorations in Drawing & Painting. I am a very “off the cuff” kind of teacher and like to give my art classes titles that include words like “explorations” and “creativity” because it gives me lots of room to find out what the kids really want to do instead of delivering a preset bunch of lesson plans that make half the kids groan. What I’ve discovered about community-based art classes is that, unfortunately, many of the children don’t really want to be there and end up enrolled because their parents either think that it’s a good idea for being well-rounded or simply because they need a place to put them, as is so often the case in summer camps.
This group of kids spent their morning with another instructor who did a very traditional figurative drawing class. The kids used each other as models and spent the week understanding and representing the scale, ratio and movement of the human body. After lunch, they came to me for an assortment of quirky, offbeat and very untraditional exercises. Over the first two days, I did demonstrations of nearly fifteen projects and, during their week with me, they could choose whatever they wanted to work on. What amazed me is how prolific they were! They made so much art, even did extra at home, which I taped up on the walls around us so that we could all look at it.
At first glance, one might have thought we were just goofing around making funny pictures but, upon closer inspection, the kids were truly learning all sorts of things about art.
Cranky Birds! (Hey, this bird looks disturbingly similar to one of my birds!)
I had such a great week with this group of young people. They were engaged, enthusiastic, focused and creative beyond all my expectations. And, in a world where many of us are so self -critical about our artistic abilities, I was so pleased to see them admire and talk about the work they’d all made at the end of each day.
TRY THIS WEEK: Scribble out your own imagination.