09 Feb 2023
Everyone’s an Artist
Art can open a world of possibilities for young children. The visual and tactile elements of art support learning in so many ways: observation skills, fine motor skills and mindsets. Art can also greatly benefit mental health and wellbeing.
Art has the power to build confidence, helping children to learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. Art can also be one of the most inclusive school subjects, allowing participation on many levels.
Let’s think about how we can help children to believe that anyone and everyone can be an artist and ensure all pupils thoroughly enjoy art activities, both in school and at home.
Experimenting with art
Experimentation is arguably how children learn best. Whether it’s language development or learning to ride a bike, it’s all about having a go. Children should be encouraged to experiment with line, colour, shape, space, form, texture and pattern.
There is a freedom that comes from knowing that there is no right or wrong. When we are allowed to try new things, explore, observe, repeat and reflect, we can develop skills and techniques, learn about what works and what we like, and what to avoid in the future.
Time, freedom and inspiration are key here. Aim to provide your class with engaging activities that inspire them to ‘have a go’ then allow them time to really explore a style, technique or medium. Provide feedback in a way that grows their curiosity and confidence – with a focus on the process rather than the outcome.
Happy accidents and magical mistakes
As S. Natalie Abadzis says in the DK book ‘How to Be an Artist’, “… creating art is not about being perfect. It’s about having ideas, experimenting and trusting in the process. A bit of practice helps, too. Believe in yourself and the rest will follow.”
Making mistakes – which may or may not become happy accidents – builds confidence and resilience. These traits are essential in all areas of learning and life. A child who learns that applying the ‘wrong’ colour paint to their artwork actually makes it more imaginative and fun may turn that confidence to creative problem-solving in maths, for example.
Model ‘mistakes’ and discuss them with children. Teach them about famous artists who experimented, practised and perhaps discovered new ways of working or exciting new styles as they ‘played’ with art.
Developing observation and imagination through art
Art is perfect for teaching children to look and to really see. Conversely, it also allows for impossible ideas to come to life. Every child in your class can observe and imagine. Again, these skills are much-needed throughout our lives. We need to observe in order to learn new skills and gain an understanding of the world around us. We need to imagine in order to create and innovate, challenge and progress.
Provide opportunities to allow children to look closely at something and talk about what they see. Scaffold the vocabulary and ask questions which can gently, constructively challenge assumptions.
Model ways to tap into our imagination, and celebrate the diversity and creativity imagination provides. Share examples of artwork that are highly imaginative, such as surrealism and cubism, playing with notions of reality.
Art in Nature
Not every child has access to the internet. Many children have few or no picture books at home. Some children will never have the opportunity to visit an art gallery. All children, however, can access art in nature. They can all be encouraged to look at the different colours on the trees in the autumn, the pattern on a snail’s shell or the beauty of the morning dew on an intricate spider’s web.
Help children realise that anyone who has access to these experiences can be an artist. We can observe, copy, replicate or be inspired by the shapes, colours, patterns and textures we see all around us in the natural world. Take them outside or bring the natural world into the classroom and demonstrate the awe and wonder nature can stir inside us.
Colouring, tracing and doodling
The benefits of colouring, tracing and doodling stretch beyond developing confidence and skills in art. As well as developing an understanding of colour, line and tone, these activities offer strong links to wellbeing, too. Colouring for mindfulness is common practice, among children and adults. Tracing and doodling are often used as thinking tools.
Try to build in opportunities for children to use colouring, tracing and doodling as calming activities or thinking strategies. This could be five minutes at the start or end of the school day, perhaps whilst listening to a story or music. It could be used as a transition activity between lessons or to relax the mind before a performance or a test.
Learning from others
As educators, we need to provide children with opportunities to engage with artists’ work and their peers’ creations. In discussing what they like or don’t like, and in asking and answering questions, children begin to develop a relationship with art which builds confidence.
Display artwork around the classroom – both famous pieces and less famous. Value your pupils’ artwork through the considered presentation and draw children’s attention to it.
Provide access to books about art styles and artists from different eras and cultures. A book such as the DK ‘Children’s Book of Art’ is a wonderful staple to any classroom’s book corner. A child of any age can leaf through and engage with its contents on many levels.
A fully inclusive art curriculum
To deliver the message that everyone’s an artist, we need to really demonstrate that. Consider how you can demonstrate that art transcends age, gender, religion, culture, ethnicity, background, physical ability, status and personal experience.
Ensure pupils are exposed to a diverse range of artwork and artists. Will they see themselves or their family members in artwork? Will they hear stories of artists who overcame personal challenges or pushed societal boundaries?
Sharing the message with your class that anyone can be an artist is so important. Start while they’re young and watch them thrive as they explore, experiment and develop a ‘can do’ attitude towards life.