If you happen to be the adult in charge, a child will usually walk up to you for approval when he completes his art work. This may sound heavy, but your reactions and responses will most likely define the child’s future relationship with creative pursuits. Which is why knowing how to react sensitively to a child’s art work is crucial.
So when you find yourself with a finished piece of art in your hand- it could be a drawing, a painting or a little sculpture- here is what you need to remember…
- Understand that the child has been through a Process
It could be messy,unrecognisable and lopsided, it could be perfectly neat or it could be just plain ordinary, you will have to keep in mind that the child has gone through a process and felt certain things while creating the piece. He has made an effort to pour out his emotions into this piece of art. Shift your focus from judging the product to acknowledging the process that went into creating it.
- Remember that this is the child’s version–
This artwork belongs to the child, it is his version of events, his views, his ideas, his imagination. You, based on your own views and perceptions may disagree and feel the urge to correct it. This could be because you have fixed ideas of what is right and wrong, or a preconceived image of how a certain thing should look. Quickly avoid the temptation to thrust your ideas on the child’s creativity and do not attempt to make changes to suit your beliefs. It is a surefire way to demotivate the child’s natural expression.
- Let the child decide if he wants to talk about it
Discussions about the art work are beneficial. If there are more children involve them in the discussion. Keep the discussion lively and free by asking questions and taking opinions. This will encourage them to talk. If a child is not comfortable about showing or talking about his art work do not force him. It may be confusing or threatening for him. Let him be. Just doing the artwork has already given him an outlet and that maybe all he needs at that moment.
- Talk about healthy criticism
The end of an art class when everyone shows their work is a good chance for them to learn art appreciation. But be careful to check for harsh criticism. A child can be deeply affected if others make fun of or criticise or laugh at his art work and it is true that children can be nasty to one another. Do make it a point to talk to the children about healthy criticism.
- Be present and observant through the process
When the children are engaged in the activity, make observations. Remember, only “good drawing” is not important. Let the child know that you observed his patience and focus. Or that you like his way of presenting and detailing. You could compliment his vivid imagination, use of colour and expressions. Praise his efforts, ideas and thoughts. If you deeply feel the need to assess more critically and if you feel the child has been sloppy/slack and is capable of better work, make the effort to talk to him and find out why that happened, why he did not feel motivated to do better. Ask if he would like to recreate it at another time because you know he is capable… and accept his answer.
- Use the correct words
Labelling is a big NO. Calling someone “non artistic” even in a casual manner can have long term effects.Once the child internalises that he does not have an artistic bent of mind he may hesitate to try anything that involves art and might actually miss out on the joy of creative pleasures in his later life. Most of us would remember being discreetly given the message that we were not good at art. And that voice still stops us from pursuing or trying out an art form just for the pleasure of it. If you think deeply its a huge price to pay.
- Remind yourself of the purpose
Not every child will become an artist. That is not the aim. The purpose of doing art regularly is to keep his natural creative instinct alive, to help him build on his aesthetic sense and appreciate life around him better. Everyone is artistic in their own way and nobody deserves to be told otherwise.
Even though it seems like a huge responsibility, being the adult in charge when an art activity is happening can really be fun and fulfilling. Just remember to loosen some of the structures, be in the moment of free flow and let things emerge without too many expectations. And the best way to get those kids to admire you as well as learn from you is to jump in and join the process of creating art with them whenever you can.