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Developing different approaches to making art

It’s important, when teaching art to understand that there are many different approaches to the making process. More often than not, art teacher lean towards a ‘Teacher-led’ approach, where they plan every stage of the learning out. This is fine in many cases, but creates very dependent pupils over time. By the word approaches I don’t mean techniques, such as painting, drawing or print etc. What I’m describing is the type of activity you create.

For example you could just pick up a pencil to draw something, but draw what? If you simply copy a picture you like then we’d call that a direct approach, which means just getting on and doing an art activity. A more complex form of this approach is called active learning. But there are also other ways to approach this drawing activity. If we photograph the drawing we could import it to a computer and use software to create digital art. We could draw something from observation or we could invent an imaginary picture. All of these are different art approaches and by knowing a wide repertoire of them you can make your art lessons much more fun and exciting. In fact, you can take the same theme and adapt it in many ways simply by altering the approach you take. It really is key to improving the kind of art you teach.

And rather than reinventing the wheel when thinking of ideas for art projects, you can just adapt and refine the art activities you do already to make them fresh and interesting. For example; let’s say you are doing a project based on puppets. You might typically approach this activity like this:

  1. Research different puppet designs

  2. Create an idea for a puppet

  3. Make the puppet

But by applying different approaches you can really add some excitement:

  • Stimulus – instead of simply showing puppet pictures, use drama and physical movement to act and move like a puppet, then make studies and drawings of these movements and poses.

  • Questioning – What were some of the different reasons people made puppets? By knowing the reasons why people made puppets your pupils have a greater understanding to be able to make more meaningful puppets of their own.

  • Pupil led – How would you make a puppet if you had no teacher input? This could be assemblage, where you provide a range of scrap, found objects and challenge them to make puppets from them.

  • Design – ‘Design a puppet for . . .’ but add design constraints such as; ‘you must use these shapes or objects, you cannot use colour etc.’

  • Artist led – Research some different puppet designs to use as influence for your own design.

  • Ideas – Develop an idea for a puppet using a tennis ball as a starting point.

  • Observation – Simply draw a puppet from observation, using first or second hand sources.

Do you see how it is the approaches you take that create interest, variety and stimulus? When you become familiar with different approaches you might begin to add some more of your own because there are even more than the ones I’ve mentioned here!

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