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“ONLY A CHILD CAN CREATE ‘CHILD-ART,’
OTHERS CAN ONLY BE CHILDLIKE IN THEIR ART.”

Rajeev Lochan
December 9, 2000
Springdale School

“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” - George Bernard Shaw

This is what GBS said, and I’m sure that it will offend some of you. It offends me too…well, I have a kinder one…

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

Art communicates on its own level, but the successful teaching of art remains a very personal affair. The arts are felt directly through the individual senses, emotions and perceptions, created in unique and complex ways, while teaching is largely a sequence of interpersonal relationships. The arbitrary conventions and academic propriety often veil the directness of art and the methods of its teaching. Marcel Proust observed, “Universe is true of all of us and dissimilar to each of us. It is not one universe but millions of universes almost as many of them as there are eyes and minds that awaken every morning. The task of the painter will be to portray this universe- to provide an image to it. Our sensations are not merely passive records.” There is, in fact, a path from fantasy back to reality and that is art.

Why include art in the curriculum? In what way does art function to answer the needs of a student in contemporary culture? The answer probably lies in a more general query as to the significant worth of art in the active outside world, as well as for its value for the child in the classroom. If a teacher can develop a personally significant understanding of this question, then he or she is in a position to translate this understanding into effective teaching situations on whatever is necessary in intrinsic terms relevant to art, rather than its mere superficial qualities.

The goals of art education may be summarized in the sentence: Art education seeks to develop sensitive, imaginative, creative, artistic, and literate individuals who may grow aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually through active expression of reflective appreciation in the arts. In this process, a qualitative personal vision is formed.

I personally believe, “Fantasy is the basis of all hypotheses, as much applicable to science as it is to art, because creativity is the common denominator.” The most formidable challenge for the art educator is how to nurture this sensibility of creativity, which manifests itself in all of us. I’d like to share a Zen story that is one of my personal favorites…[BRITISH ACADEMIC PAINTER].

One of the most obvious characteristics of present day art education is the belief of teachers in the creative ability of all children. Earlier, the ability to create was an attribute of only the few who were thought to have artistic talent. Today, creativity is no longer considered a special ability reserved for a gifted minority. W.H. Kilpatrick voiced this point of view when he said that creativity is a characteristic of all learning, although it differs in degree from one situation to another. Everyone can and indeed must create to lead a normal life.

If children could develop without any interference from the outside world, no special stimulation for their creative work would be necessary. Every child would use his deep- rooted creative impulses without inhibition-- confident in his own kind of expression. We find this creative confidence clearly demonstrated by those people who live in the remote sections of the country, and who have not been inundated by the onslaught of ads and funny books; nor are they restricted by formal education. Among these groups, one can find the most beautiful, natural, and clearest examples of uninhibited child art.

[PICASSO STORY: “I could paint like Rembrandt when I was a child, it took me a whole lifetime to paint like them…”]

For a basic understanding of art we can go back in history even before the age of cave paintings, to the invention of objects as containers. The simple realization that a hollow space would allow one to store water or grain must have been one of the wonders of primitive technology. Slowly, other considerations, such as the shape and design of the container must have emerged. As the objects became more decorative, the creators of these objects must have realized that they could have an innate meaning, and that the signs themselves could represent ideas. They found that these symbols, could not only clarify their fears, dreams and fantasies, but that they could communicate their state of mind to others. Cave paintings reflected this, for in these works of art, the animals depicted were more than simply recognizable shapes taken from their personal experiences. Rather, they represented magical notions, whereby hunters could record their concerns for survival. Decorations had now moved into the more profound sphere of the image as a metaphor, but now, not every member of the tribe was capable of making such a transformation. Those who were able to make this transition, we could now refer to as ‘artists’.

Let us go back and try to discover the main motivations of the prehistoric man, and discover for ourselves what he was trying to communicate. Suppose, he needed to communicate to his fellow man that…

[START SLIDES]

Whatever has been buried we must try to regain by recreating the natural environment necessary for such free creation. Whenever we hear children say ‘I can’t draw that’, we can be sure that some kind of interference has occurred in their lives. No tribal or folk child would express such a lack of confidence because they have no inhibitions of any kind. Communication for them is such a natural affair.

Contemporary art programs must be laid upon the belief that learners must enjoy freedom of thought and feeling when they are engaged in artistic pursuits, and without such freedom, it is claimed, no one can produce art.

The contemporary art programs were built on the acquisition of formal skills, and little attention was paid to the individual thought of the pupil. Pictures were produced according to the standard rules of composition. The pupil was deprived of the opportunity to respond to a subject on a personal level, and was only exposed to a step-by-step method of teaching. I firmly believe that, ideas can by hypothetical, but they need to be governed by their own logic to formulate their own meaning.

Children should be encouraged at a very early age to operate independently after having decided on a particular task. When they can follow a route from self-motivation to the completion of a project, we may assume that a state of freedom has been attained through personal discipline.

Art provides pleasure and diversion; commitment and fulfillment, answering the fundamental compulsions of humans to express ideas and feeling symbolically. The arts afford opportunities for a large range of expressions: vicarious, immediate, projected, removed, intimate, emotional, sensual, spiritual, intellectual and aesthetic. They may be a form of escapism permitting us to supersede a distasteful or hostile environment, or act as an outlet for the many facets of human nature to ensure a more pleasant present. The arts may be a vehicle for social comment, embodying the virtues and the defects of society. They tickle and titillate an audience or move it to tears, rage or ecstasy. They serve as emblems of the past, as precursors of the future and as the actual and vivid, yet spiritual projection of the present. The acts become the joy of creation for the artist, and a vital source of personal meaning for everyone. They are, as a general concept, an idealized version of expression, which includes the outer world of things and appearances, as well as the inner one of impulse, intuition and emotion in a limitless variety of forms.

I must share with you that I started my own career teaching art at the Bishop Cotton School in Simla. Some of my most memorable experiences, which have been like ‘eye-openers,’ are from the eleven months that I spent there. [STORY OF THE FAMER’S SON]

[SHOW SLIDES: CHILD ART]

There is an infinite list of possibilities that enriches artistic function that is related to what the particular artist has wanted to express, embody or communicate. This is one of the central concerns of art in the school curriculum – defining, expanding, enriching and responding to the sometimes unknown, but always felt, needs for expression. The goals of art education are to encompass all the feeling and thinking attributes of people. The teaching of art has to be a contagious, enthusiastic, and qualitative engagement with living experience. [Note: The difference between looking, seeing, visualizing, and perceiving]

Art education should put a premium on what is singularly unique to each person, stressing the individual and personal, and permit each student to listen to himself and to discover his own source of inspirations and possibilities. The process of art may be therapeutic, offering catharsis of personal problems or allowing for a staged enactment of hostilities, inhibitions and other behavioral disorders, and acting as a psychic cleansing agent. [STORY OF SATI]

A good teacher creates situations that call on the child’s imagination, vision and memory, any of which may function in an experimental sense. The teacher should use this type of experience to draw the child away from visual clichés and into creative behavior that is exciting and productive. We may assume, then, that the child’s inner world is as much an artistic resource as are the materials of art.

[SHOW SLIDES: RAMACHANDRAN’S BOOKS, HANUMAN]

The body of theory that urges teachers to relate art activity to the perceptual process is drawn from such diverse sources as Rudolf Arnheimn, Bartlett Hayes, and the Bauhaus movement. Whereas the basic design courses at most art schools and colleges use perception as the focus for the teaching of design, the elementary art teacher, in a sense, prepares children for perceptual maturity by engaging them in problems that are found in visual learning situations in everyday life, as well as in image making. Art teachers must find the time to do more than allow their students to draw, paint, print and sculpt objects that embody expression and feeling, but they must now realize the important activities that focus specifically on visual relations.

Art education aims particularly to expand the individual response to the aesthetic and emotional qualities of expression. The teaching of art is intimately and fundamentally involved with the senses. It hopes to educate them so that the imaginative and perceptual responses, such as, taste, sound, touch, smell, sight and the wide range of senses which respond to heat, cold, pressure, movement, and others, will all be of some consequence. An innate and symbolic form of ‘play’ is involved in art that also permits expression to be formed into imaginatively satisfying and perceptually exciting ways.

Art education aims to unify, through its activities, the many faceted attributes, potentialities and understandings of any, one, and of all students. It brings together the emotions and the intellect, intuition and logic by fusing imaginative play with concrete techniques. It also brings together personal identification with cultural moves, expressing the general values of a society or a time or a place, while it stresses the uniqueness of the aesthetic element. As a synthesized aim, it may be said that the teaching of art creates opportunities for a speculative and intrinsically rewarding, more personally inventive, and adventurous, quality of life. Art allows for the creative expression and aesthetical play that each one of us possesses.

[SHOW SLIDES: RAMANCHANDRAN’S BOOKS]

All what we can do is to expose our children and familiarize them with the rich cultural tradition that we have inherited so that they have access to the innumerable possibilities of their individual pictorial language with a universal appeal.

Let’s let them play and help them to discover themselves in a much more holistic manner.
 

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