What is Artistic Expression?
The dictionary defines artistic as showing skill or excellence in execution; naturally gifted with creative skills. Another definition says – showing imaginative skill in arrangement. I can accept showing imaginative or creative skills in an arrangement, but even the remarkable, Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, and architect, Michelangelo Buonarroti did not claim to be naturally gifted or excellent in his execution. He said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.”
Expression is an act, process, or instance of representing, or conveying in a medium – art, music, words; movement. I like the word conveying; so, the process of conveying information or emotion through art, music, words; movement. “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ~ Edgar Degas (French Impressionist painter, sculptor & draughtsman.)
There are so many mediums available, I believe everyone can be artistically expressive, in one way or another. Drawing, Sketching, Coloring, Painting, Composing or Writing comes easily to mind. Photography, Videos, Music, Dance and Choreography, Scrapbooking, Storytelling and Cooking, are all outlets for artistic expression. Don’t limit yourself or your child. Artistic expression can also be squashed at a young age and never be recovered. Vincent van Gogh, Post-Impressionist painter, said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Why promote artistic expression?
Art education teaches children to be creative and innovative. It can increase cognitive and social development, and boost self-esteem. Most art skills require observation and reflection. These skills translate into problem solving skills for math, writing, and science. “Math is not just about numbers, formulas and logic, math is also about structure, symmetry, shape and beauty,” says University of Colorado math professor Carla Farsi. “Conversely, art is not only about emotion, color and aesthetics, but also about rhythm, patterns and problem solving.”
Children learn best when both sides of their brains are engaged. The reading, writing, math, and science activities are centered in the left hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere is responsible for imagination. The right side is artistically dominant. Activities that cross over, stimulating both hemispheres, promote participatory and interactive learning. The more faculties involved, the more likely a child is to retain what he’s learned. Albert Einstein, German theoretical physicist, said, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.”
How do I teach artistic expression?
“A child’s attitude toward everything is an artist’s attitude.” ~ Willa Cather, American author
Encourage the act of creating art! Supply visual, auditory, and physical motivators; prompts, but give your students the freedom to express themselves without parameters. “Just as our eyes need light in order to see, our minds need ideas in order to create,” believes Nicole Malebranche (French rationalist philosopher; theologian.)
Drawing is one of the first ways a child learns to express himself, and with encouragement he wants to continue to learn. Coloring outside the lines is art! Coloring the dog red, or the rainbow brown, is art! French Romantic painter, Eugene Delacroix said, “The source of genius is imagination alone, the refinement of the senses that sees what others do not see, or sees them differently.” “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” ~ Oscar Wilde (Irish poet, playwright and novelist.)
We recreate our world from our own experience and understanding of life. It’s not about perfection! The most famous artist of the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso, is quoted as saying, “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?
I did not teach my children art history, or present the works of The Master’s, until they were much older. I didn’t want them being influenced by or comparing their work to another’s technique. In their early years, I gave them little instruction – how to hold a brush, how to create perspective; how to use empty space, etc. I did not teach them how to draw, nor did I dictate what was to be drawn. If they wrote a song, I didn’t correct it because the bridge was seemingly in the wrong place. Every poem written didn’t have to rhyme or fit a traditional Japanese-style haiku form, or any other form, for that matter. “No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” ~ Edward Hopper (American realist painter & printmaker.)
I cultivate artistic expression with five basic steps.
Composition – placing together –
The musician, by placing notes together –
The writer, by placing words together –
The artist, by placing images or movements together.
Imagination – visualizing in your mind –
What do you see around you?
How do you reconstruct what you see?
Observation – focusing on the details –
Paying attention to people, animals, structures, colors and textures –
Using all five senses – seeing, tasting, smelling, touching, and hearing.
Communication – imparting your view, insight, feelings –
Telling a story with your art work.
Recognition – showing the artist’s work – building confidence –
Display in a hallway gallery or on the refrigerator –
Print a book –
Make a recording or video.
“Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to start where he was.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, essayist, and philosopher.
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