September 24, 2010

Go on an Art DIET with me!


 I don't have many readers but the ones I do have are kindred spirits. So dear blogger friends help me! Help me stop comparing my students art to all the "cute" art I see on the internet. The COOKIE CUTTER art. I don't know about you but I get a little depressed by the cuteness of it all and the roughness of my students work!

KEEP THE ART ROOM HEALTHY! NO MORE COOKIE CUTTER PROJECTS! 


As time goes by, I am tempted by all "cute" cookie cutter art projects that are floating out there in cyber space. You know the ones. . . where every child has a similar outcome. The teacher usually has a "first you do this like this" type of lesson.  They are so appealing and "cute" I want to take them all home and put them on my refrigerator. It is like dangling a gooey chocolate chip cookie in front of me before dinner. I so want to partake because it looks so good but I can't! It's unhealthy.

If you support the anti-coookie cutter diet PLEASE repost a picture of chocolate chip cookies and/or your feelings too! I visit your blogs frequently; thanks for helping me remember what art is about!

Okay now seriously I'm going to make some homemade chocolate chip cookies from scratch!


40 comments:

Phyl said...

Oh my gosh Erica, I'm laughing.. I thought you were psychic, and had figured out that every time I go into the elementary office I take another chocolate kiss from the bowl. And that you somehow knew I ate the birthday cupcake a student brought me, because I don't know how to say no. And that I eat the popcorn my 4th grade teacher-friend makes at 6pm when there's nobody else in the school but the two of us and the custodians, even though I told her I didn't want any...

Anyhow, now that I realize what the post is about, I will definitely post your plate of cookies, and stop feeling guilty about those chocolate kisses, too. I know the cute stuff you are referring to (please stop the tracers and templates!! Kids can draw their own ovals, or umbrellas, or cats), as I am guilty this week. I am doing a PTSA fundraiser project, and because it has to be 'cute' and because there is a deadline, and because the PTSA funds the framing of artwork, I'm doing a lot of directed drawing for the fundraiser. I was actually so embarrassed by these lessons, that when I was listed to be observed by my principal this week, I asked her if I could put it off a week so that she could see some 'real' teaching. (thankfully she understood and agreed.)

Some of this cute stuff has really been bugging me lately (and you know I'm one to express my opinion) so I'm considering changing up which blogs show up on my blog roll. Maybe I'll do it tonight.

Erica said...

Ha ha you always make me laugh! I am totally NOT going on a REAL diet never have never will:) Luckily our school doesn't allow cupcakes anymore because some months you get a lot of cupcakes!!!

Thanks for posting:)

Phyl said...

I just saw your comment. You haven't seen the PTSA projects yet because I haven't posted them, and probably won't post the most schlocky. Too embarrassed! But some I will post - for example, the first graders' family portraits have me rolling with laughter they are so cute, but since they only have art once every six days, we won't finish them till a week from Monday. Unless there's another fire drill during art...
As for the diet - my son is 21 years old and I'm still trying to get rid of the "baby weight".

Lauren Taylor, Art Instructor said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly! I taught kindergarten for four years in spite of my art background and recall numerous cookie-cutter art projects designed for the academic classroom. Not in my fine art class! Each child is an individual and I think should have individual traits in their work. Art loses its humanness when it is so controlled and confined! Just my three cents... :)

Beansprouts said...

Thanks for being on the same page (of construction paper) as us...Couldn't agree more, and please look at the end of our latest post : )

*Steph*

barb said...

Oh these posts are getting so very interesting! I love that we are opening the door to important conversations that sometimes get swept aside.
I love puppies and little pink bows...But we need to allow our children to be the complex little individuals that they are. They are so much more than just cute. Everyone SAYS it's process not product and I know that, too. Then I find myself thinking constantly toward the end of the year fiasco of an art show. EEE gads.

Erica said...

Thanks everyone! Barb you are totally right that's the pressure! The pressure from the looming hallway. I think though once the art teachers can teach the adults they really respect that their kids are expressing and learning rather then following directions.

xinme said...

I don't know . . . I think there's a place for those step-by-step art projects. First of all, I believe children DO need to learn how to follow instructions. That's a life skill, and art is a fun way to develop that skill. Secondly, presumably each step in such an art project would develop a particular skill -- such as learning ONE particular way to draw an eye, or developing fine-motor skills with scissors, or learning ONE way to create texture in a piece of art, or ONE technique in using a particular medium, such as watercolours. Thirdly, I think it builds confidence in young artists to be able to create a piece of art that conforms to recognizable guidelines, and appears similar to that of their model and their peers. It gives them a particular goal to strive for, and a feeling of success when they have achieved that goal in their own way. In most "cookie-cutter" projects, I think there is still room for individual expression -- which is why they rarely turn out EXACTLY alike.

As someone who has only recently begun to recognize the artist in myself, I have found that doing step-by-step art projects by myself and with my children has helped us all to gain skills and confidence so that we can THEN branch out on our own and use what we've learned to express our creativity in new ways.

Cute projects that have a high "success" rate in the finished product are not art "junk food," in my opinion. They're the building blocks of wonderful creations, giving students the confidence they need to try other new and exciting ways of expressing their creativity.

Erica said...

A real discussion!!! Xinme I just checked out your blog and I don't see any cookie cutter art! I love the altered books, wax animals, and fall trees using different painting styles. I don't see tracers and there is totally room for free expression.

I totally agree that students need success to build confidence. How will we define success? That is what I'm having a problem with when I see some of these projects. It seems like success is when it looks closest to the teacher example.

I teach some technique to older students. Learning a new technique is an exercise in art not art. It's important that kids experiment with a variety of techniques and know that they can try new things and not be afraid that every piece is not leading up to an art show or adult praise.

To me cookie cutter art means. . .
1. Tracers.
2. Teacher Pleasers (kids saying "is this right?" or "mine doesn't look as good as yours") always looking for outside approval.
3. Putting ONE example on the board and a step by step guide of how to get there (like one stroke painting.) (I use examples all the time but more then one!)

I know we all believe that kids should feel confident that they can draw, create and make art independently. After all we won't be with them forever.

I wish I could post examples of what I'm talking about because it is NOT what I see on your blog!

Mary said...

I have a sinking feeling that my blog is one of the targets of this campaign against "cookie cutter" art projects. I wasn't going to comment because it's so not my style to be confrontational. But if in fact I am one of the targets, I want to clear up a few things. First and foremost, I teach a SMALL fraction of the students than the majority of my fellow art teacher bloggers. I have volunteered enough times in my daughter's public school art class to know I don't have the genetic make-up to do the job you do. I am a grassroots Mompreneur teaching 20-40 kids a week (as opposed to hundreds) out of a TINY home-based space. I do not advertise, it is all word of mouth. While I try to stay away from templates, I do a lot of direct line drawing lessons. My latest post of Olivias (the epitome of "cute"ness) of course started with a "first you do like this" lesson. But as you can see, the pigs are in no way cookie cutters with their wonderfully and completely different outcomes.They are beautifully "rough" and fabulously distorted. I love the imperfect lines of lower elementary school children. (Just look at my blog header) But I am a firm believer that direct line drawing lessons are a wonderful way to teach a child to draw what they see rather than what they think they see. I really believe that when they are taking Drawing and Painting 1 in high school my students are going to have a much easier time with the blind contouring of their hand or the modified contour of their shoe.
I have taken away something from every blogger that I follow. I try to do a balance of art lessons based from everything from great artists, to nature, to children's book art ect.. But I don't think it is up to any of us to tell another teacher that they shouldn't use templates, do "cute" art projects or direct line drawing lessons. The bottom line is that we are all trying to do the best job we can in our own particular way and individual situation. Thanks for getting the ball rolling with this conversation.

Erica said...

Thanks Mary!!! Keep the comments coming! I like hearing everyone's philosophy on this and it is cool to revise my philosophy! We'll see:)

Anonymous said...

Are you really open to different approaches or are you, in a backhanded way, posting this to single out approaches you don't approve of? Let's be real hear--I have been teaching for 32 years and I have seen many teaching methods come and go. Teaching methods have to fit the students first. No one style of teaching is totally right or wrong. I don't see this as an open discussion. Your original post comes across as what I have all too often witnessed in the teacher's room---cattiness. Perhaps, it is because I have degrees in Art Ed., Elementary Ed., and Special Education/Gifted Education, I am able to look at it through the different eyes. Thank you.

Erica said...

You are right! I don't approve of the use of tracers for one. A blog is a place to post opinions! Last year after reading blogs I used a tracer for part of a project and have been considering my choice ever since. That's where this blog comes from and of course Phyl's blog makes me consider my tracer choice! The students I teach are inner city, special ed, reg ed, gifted, and class sizes are above 30 some above 35. So I'm not teaching a small group where I can direct a whole lot anyways. A lot of free exploration works for this environment. I have also taught small groups at my own art studio. I really had to revise how I teach a lot. I am not opposed to revision with good reason. I am trying to work out how to teach with the same rigor as I did in these small groups? Now I've gone on another tangent!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous: Yes you, re-read your post, if you have been teaching for 32 years let's get "real-hear"? You obviously can't look at it or see it "through different eyes" You came across as a nay sayer, of course you don't see this as an open discussion, how could you with your negative attitude. Go ruin someone else's blog and leave the real artists to be creative, positive and genuine. GRUMPY!

Erica said...

Woah I have no problem with anonymous #1 stating what she/he thinks about me or this topic! I like to get the discussion heated!!! I haven't had this good of a discussion of difference of opinion since critiques at RISD and this is a lot cheaper! Since I have been in the "real world" outside of college there haven't been a lot of opinions expressed at least in my part of the world! I don't live in a very educated urban place just urban. So I love it.

Phyl said...

Sigh. I feel guilty, Erica, and I apologize, because it seems by my decision to spark dialogue on my blog, I've invited you to do the same, and now we've both invited some real negativity from the same commenter. I think I said it on my blog, and I'll say it here on yours too: it was not, is not, nor will be my intent to hurt. Anything that inspires us to real communication should be a good thing, right? And if this dialogue helps us to define our own opinions, that's a good thing too!

debbie22055 said...

Discussion is wonderful. Read my post. I object to the way it was presented--as a joke at others expense. When one does that, the discussion is lost. There could have been a much better way to open the discussion without the need to paint certain bloggers in a corner. I don't what more I can say expect that it is hurtful to do that to anyone. JMO
One last thing, Anonymous #2, I suffer from a brain tumor. As a result of that and my meds, sometimes my fingertips/typing is not up to snuff and I do get grumpy. Don't mean to. I just don't like to see others hurt.

Erica said...

Mary I went and looked at the specific project you are talking about I think you've incorporated a lot of very rich ideas in one lesson. It is multi-disciplinary (connecting literacy and art history) which is not "cookie cutter." From art history, to literacy, contour drawing, and shading this is how I teach art too. I apologize for using the word CUTE in my blog! Kids are cute! So what they make no matter what by default is cute! Thank god they are cute because that gets me through many long days, I don't know about you!

Jen said...

I teach my kids that we are creating something similar because we are working on particular concepts or skills, but each work should look different. I need them to learn to follow directions, use scissors, glue bottles, how to mix colors, etc.--we do a lot of that in the primary years. I hope to teach them the skills they need to be able to develop their own work (which I find more of their "voice" in middle school).I consider the elementary art classroom a place to learn the basic skills and to be encouraged to take it beyond the basic lesson. :)

xinme said...

Erica - I appreciate your visiting my blog -- and commenting! :)(I came here via Phyl's blog, BTW, which I just recently discovered, and have been enjoying.)I also appreciate your words of encouragement.

The funny thing is, some of the art you commented on so kindly (such as the fall trees, and some work in my DD8's journal) was done using a step-by-step instruction process with a single model (mine -- which I did by following someone else's ;)At this point, that's the only way I have confidence to teach my children art, and usually, once I've completed a sample of something I might try with them, my children say, "Oh, can I try that, Mom?" LOL Children are good imitators, and especially when they're young, feel like they've accomplished something significant if they can do a "good" job copying something. (I totally get your question about how "good" or "success" is defined, and by whom. It's a good question!)

I also do understand your distinction between an art exercise and "ART" that is just inspired, not forced. I guess I just think there's a place for both, and that often those "cookie cutter" projects are the former. The boundaries, or "rules," inherent in those step-by-step art projects provide perameters -- all of which can be broken in big and small ways so that individuality still shines through.

As for the "teacher pleaser" elements to "cookie cutter" projects -- I have to wonder if that desire to have external approval isn't just part of human nature, and therefore applicable to ANY project. If your natural inclination is to hide your work for a few months before you show it to others, isn't that kind of the same need for approval? But you feel the need to detach yourself from the work emotionally for a while first in case your work is somehow rejected? (I dunno -- maybe I'm getting a little too psychoanalytical on ya here! LOL) My point is, I don't think it matters WHAT we create, we all long for approval of it because it represents a bit of us.

Anyway -- I appreciate the thinking challenge you've started here :) Lots of food for thought!
(And BTW -- any use of caps in my comment is not intended to be "shouting" -- it's just for emphasis where I would otherwise have used italics;)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 I had to follow-up this blog tonight...my final thought, my opinion:
Teachers who are true artists mix their knowledge of art history, methods,and materials with their students' energy, interests, and age level. Cute art, fine for starters, what about graffiti, I do this with my middle schooler's. Some would deem this unconventional perhaps but in their world it's art!
My passion as an artist is to influence and truly affect the senses. Art is different for everyone, music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings. Reading this blog defines the level of commitment, training and just plain old common sense the artproject girl has. Art is joyful life. It seems some simply want to gripe...will skip those bloggers next time.

Erica said...

So much to respond to! I guess I'll start with I don't know why I don't want to show my work for a while. I feel like work evolves when I let it sit (talk about analyzing) I have time to go back into it after I've thought about it sometimes I will get an idea and totally repaint a part or whole. I think it has to do a lot with layering and that takes time. I never feel like a piece is completely finished it is always evolving. I think if I detach from it maybe I can stop working on it! It is my curse I guess.

A small amount of teacher "pleasing" is healthy because it shows that the student is AWARE of society. But I guess I want kids to develop joy from inside rather then outside approval.

Check out my Van Gogh's sunflowers! That is what I'm talking about. I had the kids use tracers for the vase and the center of the flowers. They came out fabulous but really Erica!!! The kids enjoyed it but begged me in other projects for help. It was a step backward. . .

Thanks for reading! Thanks for teaching!

xinme said...

Erica -- I searched your site for your Van Gogh sunflowers, and only came up with the "Easy Project You Can Do Tomorrow" -- is that the one you meant? (It doesn't show traced vases or flower centres, so I wasn't sure.)

Anyway, I woke up early this morning still thinking about creativity and art --- and tracers ;) I can understand your objection to their perpetual use, but hey -- circles are hard to draw well, so why not trace them sometimes? And don't you think sometimes using tracers can be a good indirect (even direct) lesson about individuality in the midst of conformity? (There are many ways in in which we all need to conform within society, yet we can still express ourselves individually.) And I wonder why your students asking for help means a step backwards to you . . . isn't that what you're there for -- to help them achieve their vision of what they think their project should look like? (I know -- there's the issue of them thinking they need to make it the way they think YOU think it should look.) (Ooooh that's a lot of thinking for one sentence!LOL)

But I do totally understand what you mean about joy coming from the inside, and not based on externals. That's not just a challenge in the art classroom -- that's an ongoing life lesson for all of us, I think.

Anyway, I've enjoyed this discussion, and I love your project ideas, so I'm your newest follower :) Now I'm off to do some blogging of my own in response to all these ideas and questions floating around in my head!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous#2 I am glad the blogging chat board has come full circle. Depending on the day,the age level of the students, behavior/ incorporating some tracers should not be a huge deal even for the fine artist, it allowed your young artists to be creative with the sunflowers. It is like buying a cake and decorating it yourself. In the interest of time in the the classroom it's a perfect solution to incorporate this way. No perpetual use and not backwards at all, the concentration was on the sunflowers yes?

Patty Palmer said...

I've always believed that every art teacher brings his or her own experiences, passions and expertise into the classroom. The best part about blogging is that we can connect and be inspired by each other. If a teaching style doesn't appeal to you, it's not necessary to make an example out of them. Just as there are many styles of art, there are many styles of teaching. Let's stay positive.

Nellie Mae said...

Wow, I haven't read a discussion like this in a long time!!

I tend to mix a few teacher-directed drawings in with a rare tracer here and there. I rarely use these methods for my older 2nd-4th grade students, but these methods are a sanity saver when working with my kinders. I have 11 classes of kindergarten and if all the 50 minute lesson were 'free exploration' I would go crazy a little bit....everyone would be 'done' in two seconds!!

Specifically, I find myself using directed drawing in portraits, students don't know correct spacing for eyes, nose, mouth if you don't have some sort of diagram or show some examples, all their eyes would be up by the hairline. I also use a head tracer for portrait drawing....otherwise I would get a lot of pin heads and circles with legs because of their developmental level, even in kindergarten....

Lecturing about the where and why isn't as effective as demonstrating it, so I demonstrate it on the board, have students look in mirrors, and I show them examples. The results are somewhat cookie-cutter by the end, but there are always a few that color their head green, no matter what I suggest about using an appropriate skin color...

I go back and forth with myself about using tracers and teacher-directed drawing, but in the end, I don't want to send home a ripped, scribbled, totally annihilated 'artwork' every week...because that is what some of my kids would do every week, if I gave them too much freedom. I give them some freedom, and they take home their fair share of 'originals' but there are certain projects that lend themselves to some teacher direction.

Thanks for this open forum!! ;-)

Erica said...

11 classes of Kindergarten god bless you!!! I totally agree if I gave the kids complete artistic freedom it would be chaos and not a lot of learning would happen. I love structure for myself and them. I definitely give instruction with self portraits or they would be so frustrated. Mirrors too and sometimes pictures of themselves. Thanks for the comments everyone off to work!

artteachergirl said...

Hmmmm...I agree with parts of what everyone is saying here. I think there is a place for step by step, or modeling art lessons, but I also believe students should create their art their way. I think students need to learn the skill of following instructions, and then be turned loose to create. I have students follow instructions and then we have artist's choice time. This works for my primary age students because they see success in creating something that looks like something and then they get to make it their own. My job is to set the foundation for a life time of loving art, and the joy it brings and to erase the fears of creating. I have a structured time and a free time in my room. Children seek structure, but at the same time they need freedom to be children. I do not believe in giving templates or stencils for all projects, but sometimes it is okay to give a circle or square to trace if it helps a student feel successful. My first grade students are now creating a lion face from 3 circles. First day, I did not pass out circle templates...disaster...kids shut down when they didn't make a circle, but more organic shapes to put it nicely. Next day, brought out small circles with another group and like magic, smiling faces. Even the traced circles were not perfect, but the students had more confidence in creating the lion head. We did color all lions yellow, with an orange mane. However, after that it belonged to the student...can you say rainbows and eyelashes on lions? LOL! Even a few heart shapes on the cheeks. Best of both worlds I think:-)

Erica said...

SETTING THE FOUNDATION FOR A LIFETIME OF LOVING ART!

could that be our motto as art teachers!

Snippety Gibbet said...

AMEN, MY SISTER!!!!!!!!! Did I say AMEN????????? And as wonderful as Artsonia is, I see a lot of it on there as well. Just heartbreaking! jan

Snippety Gibbet said...

Oops. As usual, I read the comments from the bottom up. I didn't realize there was a bit of a hornet's nest hanging up above. I've often thought of voicing the opinion you did, but didn't. I thank you for doing it.

Here is a wonderful site that explains a better way to teach art than "cookie cutter" lessons. http://www.goshen.edu/art/ed/creativitykillers.html

jan

Mrs. Hahn said...

Boy, this cookie thing really got people talk'n!

I mentioned on my blog about having a time a place for step by step and you replied by agreeing. You are an amazing art teacher! Truly- I enjoy reading what is now on your blog. I want you to know I support your diet:) and respect you as a peer. Thanks for being bold and making such a statement.

Erica said...

I totally agree with a time and place for step by step. That is an art exercise. I think an art project is one that takes exercises and makes them truly creative! The color wheel project I did totally step by step:) Then we will use colors to do our creative pieces!!!

Erica said...

This link is awesome http://www.goshen.edu/art/ed/creativitykillers.html what great alternatives it provides.

Thanks Snippety Gibbet.

HipWaldorf said...

All of you should read the Art teachers chatboard on Teachers.net they have intense, heated and extremely helpful discussions!

I wish I had a blog to post your message and those chocolate chip cookies! I found you through Phyl's blog as well.

I just finished a PTO fundraiser art project, (same as Phyl) and have decided that it is like "teaching to the test"...I have only received $100 each year for helping and hate every second of it for all the cookie cutter reasons listed above...it is not consistent with any of the work I do for the entire school year...no more, I will gracefully pull out of this commitment after reading this discussion.

Enjoy!

theartofeducation said...

Wow. Hot topic! I do not use a lot of tracers, but when it do, it's with the younger students to help with their hand eye coordination! You don't learn to write by starting with sentences, first you learn the letters, then they make words, then sentences. So, I start out with the basic skills so I KNOW they have the fine motor skills to move on to independence. Balance. It's all about balancing creativity with lessons that are visually pleasing and the best is when you find the mix of a lesson that provides both. Not all lessons can be that way, therefore, you find BALANCE and ask yourself for grace and patience as you find out what best practice works best for you!
I posted on ways I get DIFFERENT visual responses from students on my blog. I give them visual libraries to stimulate different responses. Check it out
here
http://theartofeducation.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/lets-get-visual/

Good luck with everything, great job as your blog has evolved!

Jessica
The ART of Education

Erica said...

Thanks Jessica! I posted a question on your blog. I was also wondering are you making your visual library available to on your visuals page?

xinme said...

Hi, Erica -- I just came back to tell you that I linked to this post in my post that will publish tomorrow, Monday, October 11, 2010, in my weekly "Monday Musings on the Creator in Me." (I can't give you the direct link because I haven't figured out how to get that pre-publication in Blogger.)You've really had me thinking, and I found myself applying a lot of the discussion to spiritual matters as well! (So be forewarned of that if you read it;)

I also had fun creating some visuals to accompany my post. Cookie cutter art? Yes AND no! ;)(hehe:)

Thank you for inspiring me to take this mental road trip :)

Art Project Girl said...

Can't wait to read it! You are an amazing writer and I loved the last ideas you added to the conversation:)

tana said...

Wowzers! Yeah, heated topic and love the responses that have been given. First, I am so happy that we all get a chance to even speak our opinion...Second, I am so glad that we are even given the opportunity to teach our passion and love for the visual arts...third, we teach children, they are so creative with or without tracers, with or without instructions, and they are just children, they want to have fun and get away from the cookie cutter testing that goes on and on. What do you all remember from your school days? Testing and testing, instruction and instruction or the fun, creative things that your teachers did? Thank goodness I am one of the "fun" teachers that will be remembered for so many things other than the tests...art is so great, isn't it!
Check out my art blog as well - mnartgal.blogspot.com