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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Teaching to Learn

I am not a teacher, have never qualified as one.
But I find that if I really, really want to 
LEARN something well, the best way is for me
to teach it to someone else.  

This precocious 12 year old spent a week of "Auntie Camp" with her twin brother in the mountains of NC.  On her docket was an art lesson with yours truly, a friend of the aunts.  My student listened intently as we went over the concepts of Shape, Contrast, and Color.  We did some continuous line drawing of simple objects as a warm-up and even put on the "magic glasses" to discuss contrast.

Local color (a green tree) versus imaginative color (maybe you prefer it blue?) wound up our prep lesson of basics.  Choosing to paint landscape, this eager student dug through my photos to choose one for her masterpiece.  We were both salivating as the paints and canvas came out on the table; there is always that thrill of anticipation, that lure of the magic, that total sense that something wonderful is about to happen.  I knew she felt this too.

We started by using the 'magic glasses' to identify the darkest passages in the composition and lay them in first.  She was fine with only a few pencil marks as I assured her that using acrylic paints let us make many corrections if needed.  (The oils are a bird of a different feather.) With no hesitation she dipped her brush in and went for it.

All of us tend to gravitate towards painting detail first so I explained to her we were building an icecream sundae and did not want to start with the whipped cream and the cherry.  She got it! Above are the large shapes we referred to as the bananas and ice cream: the basics, the structure, the foundation of what we were building.  Big shapes of the correct color.

And here is my happy camper complete with the whipped cream and finally (see the purple cone flowers?) the cherries on her sundae.  We were both so pleased with her results.  It was with great joy she signed her masterpiece and I dated it on the back.  

So what did the teacher learn in all this??  First, I got a recap of the basics in planning any composition, a review of a few simple elements that are the structure of any piece.  I know I, too, can be guilty of wanting to jump right into the whipped cream and cherries. 

Second, I had the pleasure of observing what sincerity in learning requires: an open mind (never did she argue with me about how she preferred to do something), a willingness to experiment (ok, no idea why you want a yellow blob there but I am going to trust you....oh gosh, it works), repetition of instructions (she had no qualms about talking out loud to herself throughout the process, reminding herself of things I'd said or asking herself what was next, it was a pacing, not a race)  and finally, a satisfaction in the outcome (she had no expectation of not liking her work, she was pleased with herself and enjoyed her result with enthusiasm).  Of course she wants to learn more but setting a bar that can't be met is a sure killer of future progress.

So as my adorable student heads off to art class in "real" school (no doubt repeating to herself: shape, contrast, color), I will go to the studio next week with a mind open to experimentation while I remind myself, out loud, of the basics. And, oh yes, I promise to be excited over the results.

Always Learning,

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