“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”  Pablo Picasso

Art is not separate from life but an endless interaction with life. In fact, the arts have been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Our ancestors painted on the walls of caves, sang, and performed dances of ritual and celebration. In ancient times, and today, in some indigenous cultures, art lives on as a life-essential. Celebrating the invisible thread that connects humanity, the arts have been a method of documenting our history, providing meaning, and shaping our experiences across time. As an essential part of humanity, the arts provide a continuous thread that connects generations through imagery, movement, and voice. Through music, theater, dance, the visual and literary arts, we witness what humans can accomplish with their voices and their bodies. The arts provide a means for expressing the inexpressible, inspiring courage, enriching celebrations, and transforming our tragedies into triumphs of artistic expression. It would be impossible to imagine a world without the arts. Audrey Flack, a well-known artist wrote this poem about the power of art to transform and to heal.

 I believe in art.
I do not believe in the “art world” as
it is today.
I do not believe in art as a commodity.
Great art is in exquisite balance.
It is restorative.
 I believe in the energy of art, and through
the use of that energy, the artists’ ability
  to transform his or her life and, by example,   
the lives of others.
  I believe that through our art, and through
 the projection of transcendent imagery,
we can mend and heal the planet.

I am both an artist and a teacher. I have worked in two worlds balancing my need to create with the desire to encourage creativity in my students. With over twenty five years of teaching expereince, I have witnessed the amazing transformation of students and teachers as they connect, or sometimes reconnect, with their artistic natures. When “doing art,” something happens that is both inexplicable and touches upon both the inner and outer worlds of the person involved in the act of art making. During the process or in the final stages, the value and importance of the activity can be conveyed—visually, theatrically, and/or verbally in stories or poetry. When people begin to engage with art processes, they understand that what they are doing is somehow important on both an intimate and personal level. Words may not be able to articulate what is often felt or embodied, yet, at a visceral level, when people engage in the “doing of art,” there is recognition of art’s beneficial power. According to neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, “hands-on work satisfies our primal craving to create solid objects; it could also be an antidote to our cultural malaise.” If the arts could potentially provide an antidote to our “cultural malaise,” might they also offer a remedy for the educational malaise often present in our schools today? Art is a change agent. The arts feed my soul, so that whenever I am engaged in artistic practice, I am reminded of art’s power to support and inspire and transform.

How can the process of making art support you in your personal and professional life as an educator?   Does the act of making art transform your experiences and provide you with insights or “aha” moments?  Have you seen art transform the world of your students?

Share your thoughts, images and written words.

Cover image: Participant notes from a teacher workshop on the power of the arts




4 thoughts on “Artmaking

  1. The Ever-Spinning Web

    are one in the same

    information, ideas
    fresh and new
    filled with traces
    of the old

    not so intimidating
    that onlookers alter their glance in fear

    not so basic
    that their subjects
    tune out and into the world around them

    staying rooted,
    captivated by fascination

    providing grounds
    to get lost
    within the vulnerabilities
    of your mind

    giving ‘faint hints’
    of understanding
    until the web of connections
    naturally expands

    what once was so foreign
    becomes an extension
    a mere limb
    of your everchanging mind

    an art of complexity
    a constant experiment
    of utmost importance

    *expanded off Carol Roger’s article Presence in Teaching

  2. In my own work I tend to be quite representational. There is something about the human form and anatomy that has always fascinated me. However, there are times I feel myself getting so uptight with drawing or painting something just right that I get frustrated and this frustration leads to self doubt in myself as an artist. I forget that I love painting, that I AM talented, and that making art is suppose to be a creative release and fun. I think this frustration is something that many students and professional artists alike experience at some point.

    I truly believe when this happens it is beneficial to try something new and let go. Teachers, artists, and students can all benefit from the simple process of “making.” I think a great idea is to choose a project or an idea that is purposefully process oriented, that allows your body to move around, and that may produce unpredictable results. It may even be a good idea to try a completely new medium and let yourself explore and experiment. Risk taking is important in the process of artmaking and so is failure. Failure allows us to learn and grow.

    This image is from an experiment I did using frosted mylar, acrylic ink, and water… A painter at heart, I had a difficult time straying from that, however, the process what completely foreign to me. My brushstrokes are generally direct and intentional, my paintings well composed and planned with preliminary sketches. This “painting” was different though. I enjoyed pouring the diluted ink onto the mylar, watching the different weight of the ink and water push and swirl into each other. I had to leave it flat overnight to dry, but as it did the painting began to change as each section dried. Beautiful and unpredictable lines and shapes took form, almost creating a painting on their own.

    The classroom can often be an unpredictable and challenging setting. But one that is also exciting. Like my experimental “process painting,” I see my students as these watery shapes that, with patience, time and care, I can guide and will ultimately take shape into beautiful artists themselves.

  3. Jackson Pollock is one of my favorite artists. He was not worried about the outcome of his paint drip paintings, but the process of dripping and acting out the work. I love to get the opportunity to do my own work and jus to draw, paint, etc without thinking about what is should be or how someone will perceive it. At the same time too, I am so trained to make artwork as fast as I can on a schedule due to high school and college. I have almost been trained to forget the process and just do/make it.
    I think the process of doing helps to give more insight on the medium and techniques you use. The process gives you opportunity to run into problems and think critically on how to fix it or embrace it. I am all for embracing the mistakes. I used to get freaked out when I am made a mistake, especially with permanent mediums. I have learned through many mistakes that instead of getting upset about it- how can incorporate it into the composition?, how could I cover it or add something to make it less noticeable or hide it?
    I would want my students to be okay with making mistakes. If a students had never used the medium I would grade them harshly expecting their first piece with the medium to perfect. The learning experience should be praised not scrutinized. Or I would let them build upon it- since they have learned about the new process, medium, technique- what could they add to their first piece (if they did not like it) that they learned or discovered of making the first piece?

    My strange beginning sketches are evidence of my process in my art making. I really like to research my subject/concept before I make my art to see different links to other things instead of what I would typically think.

  4. As an artist I am always creating a piece of artwork. My mother does what is called making crafts, so sometimes I make crafts too. I grew up with her making cards, jewelry, or sewing. Some of her work is creative and beautiful, so I think of her pieces more as artwork. There are occasions when there is a fine line between crafts and artwork. As a teacher I am always making something whether it is designing a lesson or helping students create a pieces of artwork. I believe as artists and teachers it is part of our human nature to always want to be creative and try new ideas; that is when my heart sings and I am most happy. I want to encourage my students to continue to be involved with the arts even when they are no longer in my classroom. I had this experience as a student. I was encouraged by my elementary art teacher who saw something in me at an early age. I remember her asking me if I was going to continue to make art. At the time I was not sure, but her encouragement made me want to continue. As I got older, it became my passion. I could not see myself not being an artist. I hope I can encourage and influence students to find their inner artist and find that happiness that I possess.
    The piece below is made from handmade crocheted pieces. People think of crocheted pieces as a craft. I took those handmade crochet pieces and created a piece of art. Who really is the artist? The grandmother who crocheted each piece or the person who put them together into a piece of artwork?

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