SchoolArts Magazine

April 2017

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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A D V O C A C Y CONTINUED ON PAGE 46. A t least once a week, parents and coworkers tell me that they can't draw. One morn- ing, I walked from my car to the artroom, and three different adults told me that they could not draw at all. They couldn't draw stick figures. They couldn't draw circles. They couldn't even draw straight lines. So they say. For years I have welcomed par- ents into our art program. I schedule family art events. I offer after-school art classes for families. I host por- trait parties and drawing safaris. Parents watch while their children draw. Some ask me when they should pick up their children, and their faces fall when I say, "No. This is a family art project. They can't do it without you." Something New This year, I tried something new: I offered free art classes for adults only. I surveyed the school to find out who was interested and when they were available. Three teachers, one admin- istrator, and eight parents enrolled. On the first day of class, one of them asked, "Why are you doing this?" "Because I think it will be fun," I answered. "I also want to put my money where my mouth is. I want to prove to myself that I can teach you art. And, maybe if I do, you'll tell the rest of the school." Adults Observe The focus of the course was observa- tional drawing. I prepared six classes with a forty-day hiatus for indepen- dent sketching. The first class was a kindergarten lesson. Adult students used simple shapes to create their own versions of a cartoon cat. In the second lesson, they used sighting techniques and watercolors to draw from a photograph. In the third class, they sketched objects from observation. I sent them home with sketchbooks and a list of things to draw. "Be specific," I reminded them. "If you draw a coffee cup, I want to see that it's your coffee cup." In our final three classes, students used the grid method to create self-portraits. Much to Learn Of course, I also had a lot to learn. Adult students' smiles faded when they saw their first project. "Cartoon cats?" The assignment was much too easy for them. Despite warnings that they couldn't draw stick figures, circles, or lines, all of my students completed their cats in record time. By kindergar - ten standards, they were all prodigies. None of them seemed happy though. I felt terrible that night. I had grossly underestimated my new stu- dents. I wasn't happy with myself, and I didn't know how to improve. But then something occurred to me: "This is probably how my students feel." I suddenly felt very excited. "This is what learning feels like. I'm going to be learning too!" Making Adjustments In our next class, I apologized. I paid closer attention to what my students were doing and the questions they were asking. I adjusted the course accordingly. A few dropped out. It was interest- ing to speculate why. The remaining adults were some of the best students I've ever taught. Unlike adult artists, these students were unfamiliar with the techniques and history of art. So, there were many oohs and ahs and aha moments, which are always satisfying. Adults Can Draw Unlike K–12 students, these adults were all fully engaged. They asked questions. They expressed enthusi- asm. Their problems were unique and complicated, which was challenging and fun for me. The answers that they coaxed from me became lessons that I've already used in my other classes. Here is what I learned: Every adult that I taught can draw. Most of them draw very well. Very few of them were satisfied with their drawings. This is comparable, don't you think, to people who say, "I can't sing" or "I can't dance?" It isn't a question of ability (although ability can always be cul- Adults Onl Rama Hughes Thi ear, I tried something new: I offered free art classes for adults onl . Ruth Gluck AImee Smom 8 APRIL 2017 SchoolArts

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