Slow Down!

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For the past year, I’ve been facilitating art classes for children.  I use the word “facilitating” because I feel like I don’t have much to teach them, other than an appreciation of art, and the basics of the elements and principles of art, as well as a tip I’ve learned here and there.  Really what I do is provide a somewhat structured, supportive environment in which young artists can take risks, and where they have immediate feedback and guidance from a more experienced artist.  The truth is, some of them are better than I am.  It has become a bit of a social club for some – a place where they simply fit in, and feel good when they come.

What I’ve noticed in many students, though, is what holds them back the most.  Suddenly, I’m no long the art teacher, but the character builder.  I’m now working on instilling patience in some of the kiddos who come to me for lessons.  I am realizing how much patience, or lack thereof, really, holds back a budding artist.  And I get it.  I’m the same way.  The ideas buzzing around an artist’s head are unbearable … with a new idea every second or two, how are you supposed to focus in and get one piece completed well?  This is something I’ve tackled myself, though I still fail miserably most of the time.

So how do you instill patience in a young artist?  These are some of the things I’ve started doing, not only with them, but with myself:

– Tell them to SLOW DOWN!  It’s not a race. Re: Tortoise and the Hare
– Give a purpose: “The purpose for today’s masterpiece is not to create a beautiful sky, but to show that you can use colouring pencils to create a gradient colour value.”
– Options: give them a WHY or a HOW … not both.  This way, they feel engaged because they picked part of it, but they have an expectation, because YOU picked part of it.
– Show them how you would slow down … whether that’s to stop and look at it and make decisions, or to hold the pencil or brush differently.  Model how a slower pace sometimes improves the work.

It’s hard, because truly great art has ENERGY in it.  But when it’s done in a rush, unless the artist thoroughly understands the elements and principles of design and is a seasoned pro (which most of us aren’t), it creates the feeling of being done in a rush.  And if, by chance, it is gorgeous, the problem is that it can’t be recreated.  There’s no consistency.  It was a happy mistake.

Without killing their inspiration and energy and enthusiasm, encourage your kid, your (art) students, or yourself … to slow down.  Smell the roses.  It’s worth it!

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