In our home the making of art is primarily child-led. I set up the environment (papers, canvases, paints and brushes, colored pencils, scissors, glue, oil pastels, string, art instruction books, etc.) and the kids have free access to the supplies whenever they like. Every now and then, however, I pull out an art instruction book and give the kids a lesson.
One book of choice is Early Elementary Artistic Pursuits. Artistic Pursuits’ lessons are long and don’t follow any particular order, so I pull from them sporadically and narrate the essence of the lessons to my kids (rather than read them aloud). The book is designed to introduce young children to a variety of style and media, and we have a lot of fun taking the different materials in hand.
On a Monday in April we began our school week with a morning of art. Flipping to a lesson on the ways an artist uses color to convey emotion and thought, we took up our oil pastels and gave it a try. We were attempting to tell a story with color.
Our pictures are below.
The nine-year old drew the view behind our yard–the field, the sky, and the tree standing sentinel. He spent an hour blending colors to show that the air was warm, the season Spring, the grass reacting to a night of rain. He felt thoughtful, he said, and like he wanted people to know that the place he drew was a good place to be.
The eight-year-old drew a tree from his imagination. The lesson intimidated him and when he’s intimidated, he often draws trees. One can’t go wrong with a trunk, some branches, and green leaves! This is my child who, when left to his own inspiration and devices, can draw by pencil a rhinoceros that looks just like the real thing. But a direct instruction about an abstract concept (“tell your feelings with colors”) is hard to wrap his mind around. You’ll see that he drew the colors he actually sees (the tree) and the colors he likes to imagine (the rainbow). The enjoyment from this lesson came from time to play with his new oil pastels, and he was quite pleased with his end product.
The five-year-old, on the other hand, had no trouble comprehending the vast possibilities suggested by the idea of using color to tell how one feels. She’s all about feelings anyway, so she just grabbed her pastels and had at it. “This is how I feel when I’m in the Wichitas, Mama! My heart just feels pink and blue and green and orange and red and all the colors of the flowers! I drew this to give the feeeeeeeelings that the wildflowers put in my heart!”
The last picture is my own, a depiction to my own heart of the Homecoming Ceremony we’d held the night before for all the soldiers and families of my husband’s unit. The journey from tears to elation, that’s what I found myself attempting to convey.