I’m a week out from teaching at an art camp for preschool-aged children. It’s funny to me that I am nervous about coming up with my projects. I really only need 2 projects this time around, and our theme is vacation. This always happens to me - the butterflies in the belly.
One of the reasons I get worked up about it is because art always means something to me. It isn’t just a drawing, or just a painting, or just a craft. It comes from somewhere deeper. So though I’ve tried to pep talk myself into thinking “They’re just little kids and they’re going to love anything we do together,” I know the hang up is I am not going to love just anything. I have to connect to what I teach, and if I connect with it, it makes all the difference in my demeanor.
I want to make it really something for them. I want the art to be like a slide and as I explain the project and we make our first marks, we are climbing up the ladder. As soon as they forget that I'm there and they start adding their own additions and making up a little story about what they are creating, this is when they shove off down the slide, a slide that leads to ImagineNation. Some kids don't get off the ladder, and this feels like torture to me. I stew on how I can get them off the ladder.
I want them to get lost in it. To learn that art is about learning to play with possibility. To learn that the project I pick, the tools we use, the techniques of art, even how "good" it looks, those are the surface appearances, but what really fuels you as an artist is connecting to that undercurrent where YOUR slide takes you. What do you see that no one else sees. What does real life look like to you and how can you use your creativity to show us?
The project has to take us somewhere past the art because that somewhere is a very fun place to get to, and it is why I love teaching art. I actually care very little about frame-able pieces and gallery shows as proof that the artist is diligent and prolific and accomplished. Sometimes this is the natural result, but I don't think it needs to be the focus.
I care about what is going on in the undercurrent. Who is that person becoming? What sort of world do they believe themselves capable of creating? Can they find meaning and purpose in the marks they make. Does the mark making feel good? I want to see developed a creative freedom and confidence far more than I want a person who can successfully paint by number.