Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25, 2010
I'm relatively new to the art teaching profession, having taught my first real class of students in February at the Orme Ranch School. Yesterday I had the privilege of teaching two classes of about 20 kids in each class at the Vision Gallery, which is on the west side of the old-town plaza in Chandler. It's part of a program for the Chandler Center for the Arts and since schools are cutting out art from the cirriculum these kinds of seminars are taking up the slack.

I was a tad nervous about the class because when I taught the high schoolers at Orme it was a challenge to keep them engaged, off of Twitter, Facebook, iPods and each other, but these kids (6 to 12 years old) were an absolute dream. First of all, they would hang on every word I said, and take everything I told them totally to heart:

"Okay, look up here, don't look at your drawing, draw what you see, not what you think you see, come on, don't look, I know you want to, that's your left-brain trying to control you, look up here at what you are drawing. . ."

So, when one of the kids later wanted me to show them facial spacing (how you line up eyes with mouth, ears to eyes, etc.) I started drawing on a pad on an easel and John, a precocious lad of about seven or eight, says, "stop looking at your drawing Mr. Bell." He wasn't being a smartass, or cheap in any way. He had taken my edict to heart and was feeding it back to me.

Of course, I had them draw with their opposite hand and then their toes. The kids squealed when i told them what I wanted and I told them they didn't have to do it if they didn't want to, but the ones who squirmed the loudest and said they would never do it were the ones who dived right in and seemed to enjoy it the most.

When I raved about their wild lines and how much integrity their drawings had, you could see the lightbulbs go off and it was quite inspiring to see. I told them I was unlocking a secret weapon, like a super power and how it was going to give them an advantage over their friends who think art is scanning a piece of art into a computer and coloring it with an application and a mousepad. That's not art, I told them, what you are doing is art.

After I sold them on the super power idea I told them their assignment was to go out into the world and get on the ladder, but I warned them that there will be 300 other kids lined up around that ladder waiting to get on, and it's your job to figure out how to get around those others and get on that ladder.

At the end of the class, John (yes, the same feisty kid) came up to me and said, "I'm going to get on that ladder." I later learned his father is terminally ill and the confidence of that boy took my breath away. Nobody is going to stop him.

Speaking of kids, when I think about my own children I often pride myself on the fact that I treated both my son and my daughter exactly the same, without favoritism. However, and this is hard to admit, when it comes to dating. . .

"I believe nobody is good enough for my daughter and everybody is too good for my son."

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