Art Teaching
eBook - ePub

Art Teaching

Elementary through Middle School

George Szekely, Julie Alsip Bucknam

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  1. 328 pages
  2. English
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  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Art Teaching

Elementary through Middle School

George Szekely, Julie Alsip Bucknam

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About This Book

Art Teaching speaks to a new generation of art teachers in a changing society and fresh art world. Comprehensive and up-to-date, it presents fundamental theories, principles, creative approaches, and resources for art teaching in elementary through middle-school. Key sections focus on how children make art, why they make art, the unique qualities of children's art, and how artistic development can be encouraged in school and at home. Important aspects of curriculum development, integration, evaluation, art room management, and professional development are covered. A wide range of art media with sample art activities is included.

Taking the reader to the heart of the classroom, this practical guide describes the realities, challenges, and joys of teaching art, discusses the art room as a zone for creativity, and illustrates how to navigate in a school setting in order to create rich art experiences for students. Many textbooks provide information; this book also provides inspiration. Future and practicing teachers are challenged to think about every aspect of art teaching and to begin formulating independent views and opinions.

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Chapter 1

From Theory to Practice

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. —David Brinkley

Section One A Brief History of Art Education


Children have always played and created art. However, the art produced by children has a history of being placed on a lower artistic shelf than art produced by adults. Ask a museum guide to see children’s art and you will be directed to the basement education department, to view reproductions of what is upstairs, presented in a child-friendly, interactive way. The history of art education has been about how adult art principles, systems, and ideas about art have been taught to children. Children could be taught art principles, but their own strivings were not historically worthy of display or preservation. Although children obviously have been making art as long as adults have, they were not recognized as artists; their playing and creative actions were thought to be frivolous, unimportant, and only distantly related to “real art.” Starting in the 1950s, children’s art appeared as a developing story, displayed to illustrate stages or as progress toward the art of adults. Developmental displays of children’s drawings in textbooks suggest that all children’s art is the same, emerging in predictable stages. Unique qualities and individual expression were not worthy of mention until the late 1950s, when modern artists claimed children’s art as a source of inspiration and something they were striving toward.
In writing the history of art education, the emphasis is on how art came to be included in the public school, as if children did not explore art before it was taught in school. Drawing as an aid to improving penmanship was first to be included in public schools in America. By 1875 some form of drawing was taught in most schools. It was not until the next century when a strand of progressive educators—starting in Europe with Johann Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel and followed later in America by John Dewey’s progressive education influence—that creativity and children’s play were truly valued by the art establishment.
The story of art education in America began, and to some extent still exists, as one of two persuasions. One, stemming from the notion that art is something an adult teaches children, often for reasons other than art, such as to advance penmanship, morality, school studies, thinking skills, or simply to appreciate adult works. The other, second viewpoint, is that play and art are natural and valuable children’s expressions, that art is a child’s unique expression, interest, and mode of learning. The child is an artist and a creative player whose art is to be built on and not diminished by art instruction. The authors of this text hope to engender the notion that despite its historical positioning, art created by children should be recognized as art.
The study of the history of art education needs to be about recognizing and discussing issues that art teachers still deal with today. A historical view is what art teachers need to establish, a bigger picture of how the field evolved. Discussions about the history of art education are not just about learning names and dates but following the flow of significant issues that continue to demand a contemporary response. This section is a special walk through the history of art education. Based on what is known about the evolution of the field, the journey takes the reader into schools of different periods, giving an impression of what it looked and felt like to be in the room with our forbearers. Teaching styles and materials used are described as if the reader were a visiting colleague. Key characters and issues of the past are also brought to contemporary and sometimes personal light, in a history to remember and perhaps to enjoy.

Journeys from Europe to America

As one official story goes, Boston school leaders visited European schools in the middle of the nineteenth century and were awed by the quality of student handwriting. The fine hand control appeared to be a result of manual drawing lessons prevalent in European schools. Boston schools adopted German and British drawing manuals, which featured lettering exercises supported by line drawing. These how-to instructions were unrelated to the natural ways children draw or learn about the world using art by connecting play and awareness with the experimental use of objects and materials. Walter Smith, a well-known British professional drawing teacher, was brought to Boston to supervise the training of teachers in his manual drawing system.
In a recent biographical animation for art teachers on educational television, George Szekely’s character explains,
I didn’t bring European education with me when I came to America from Vienna in 1959. However, I am a product of the old European drawing system that has not changed from the time it was studied by Boston’s educators. I had the scars from my manual drawing teacher’s ruler for the lines I missed, and I vowed never to take drawing again in school. I arrived in America in the midst of the greatest artistic change in the New York art scene, the birth of the first truly American and internationally recognized art movement known as Abstract Expressionism. The new American art brought with it a departure in the schools and deviated from my Viennese art teachers, who had no respect for children as naturally expressive artists.
In my Viennese school, each class could be characterized by perpetual lectures, followed by student recitation. Readers were our primary source of learning, and there was a book for every subject, including a strictly adhered-to manual for drawing. In a tightly restricted environment even hands had to be kept out of sight, behind our back, raised only in a specific way, to a specific height, in response to questioning by the teacher. In Dr. Herr Manfreda’s drawing class, the school model was just as unnatural. All drawing was done on graph paper, following Manfreda’s manual, and drawings were enlarged from his bible onto the board. Initial sessions were spent on proper pencil-sharpening techniques. We moved to properly ruled lines, with precision enforced by hits from Manfreda’s ruler. Uppercase letters had to be carefully rendered and practice writing was part of all home drawing assignments. Manfreda, like our other teachers, considered students as blank slates, with no prior knowledge, aptitude, or interest in the subject. All that was to be learned about drawing came from Manfreda and his stick.
Students in American schools in the early part of the nineteenth century wrote and drew on slate boards and not on the graph papers used in Herr Manfreda’s class. Otherwise, drawing assignments during the middle of the nineteenth century in America were not substantially different than those in Vienna in the middle of the twentieth century. In early American drawing classes, students copied line assignments modeled on the board onto individual slate boards. The Museum of the City of New York houses a wonderful collection of materials such as early drawing manuals and slate boards.
Knowing how children love to draw on chalkboards, one can assume that many inventive drawings were also inscribed on slate. Free art was not called for in school, and what children drew on their own was not considered something important, so there are no traces of their art. Did children playfully draw in between copying, or were there some unsung teachers who encouraged children’s drawing inventions? The answer remains erased.
Copying from drawing manuals, classical casts, and masterpieces sums up the early history of our field. Even though children like to copy pictures, everyone today knows not to copy in art classes. To experience the history of art education in a memorable way, art teachers can follow a lesson in an old drawing manual or from a new one, still sold at any art supply store.

A Visit to a School in Boston,
Drawing on Slate Boards (1868)

A basket of chalk sits on the floor. A darkly framed chalkboard covers the wall opposite the main door. In the general classroom the teacher is in charge of the drawing lessons. The top of the board is lined like a music sheet; parallel lines are spaced in five equal intervals for lettering. Below, a chalk drawing of a cylinder is bisected at different points and neatly lined on both the top and bottom. Joseph Mann has been teaching drawing for two years, ever since the Boston school mandate.
Upon our meeting, Mann right away clarifies that he is not an artist, nor an art teacher, but like other teachers he attended Walter Smith’s free drawing workshop. During the visit Mann speaks convincingly about his views regarding the importance of drawing for his students. “Artisans and students who will be involved in mechanical labor need the benefits of knowing how to draw accurately,” he says. “With our growing American industry we cannot afford not to teach drawing to future cabinet makers, printers, or silversmiths, who depend on patterns and drawing for their livelihoods.” Mann stresses drawing as a practical advantage to the many mechanical trades. Introducing his teaching to elementary and intermediate students, Mann describes his drawing lessons as teaching the outlining of forms, measuring, emphasizing proportion, accuracy, and the laws of perspective.
For drawing lessons students use The Chautauqua Industrial Art Drawing System; a roll-up, cloth-backed class display hangs on the wall. On the chalkboard, Mann enlarges sample sections of the drawing system for students to follow. The teacher draws parallel lines vertically and horizontally, using different spacing. The parallel lines turn to rectangles and squares. Students follow each step of the drawing on individual slate boards. Mann urges patience and precision as he turns the parallel lines into arrow feathers, then a rake.
The next drawing lesson is geometric shapes, starting with a circle, divided into halves and fourths. The segmented shape on the board is then opened into patterns and designs based on a circle. What looks like an enjoyable experience involves drawing animal silhouettes—a donkey, a squirrel, and a rabbit. According to the wall chart, later line lessons cross into weavings. The final assignments use the parallel line practice to be drawn as fences surrounding previous animal silhouettes. The same chart illustrates “Draftsman Capital” letters and the proper positioning of hand and chalk to be used in display lettering. The Boston drawing course illuminates important lessons that are a hallmark of future art teaching.
Working on a slate board is holding art education history in hand. Art teachers can share the experience by purchasing a variety of slate boards online or at antique stores, or work over slate tiles from a lumberyard. Slate boards are wonderful items for art teachers to collect.
Efficiency became an issue from the moment drawing and art were placed into the school curriculum. Drawing systems offered a way to efficiently deliver information about drawing to students. Students followed clear instructions demonstrated by the teacher. Personal investigation and interpretations required a great deal of time. The “correct” way to draw was demonstrated by the book and enforced by the teacher. All students needed to do was follow a prescribed path and copy correctly. No class time was wasted talking about beauty, or searching for the new. Systems for teaching art were sought after, and drawing masters published their manuals with sequential exercises. Picture study and art appreciation were later added to the subject; like drawing, they had their own manuals and directions for the teacher to follow. And like drawing, picture study was efficient, it required no personal probing of art, and like most docents in museums to this day, all one had to know about the artwork was explained. Later, initiatives to integrate the arts with other subjects, or to use art to enliven school learning, also saved time by not requiring art to be taught separately, while assisting general education. But one concern started to be clear: How could the richness of the art experience, the journey of artistic investigation, be included in schools that had little time to spare?
Another concern that began with mid-nineteenth-century drawing instruction was the notion that anyone could teach art. In early drawing lessons, succinct manuals guided the teacher and students through specific steps. It was assumed that anyone who could learn how to write could draw. From the early history of art teaching, some still believe that with the proper workbook and logical steps, later called skills and principles, there is no need to hire art specialists. Future art teachers need to demonstrate that they bring more to the table than teaching steps of how to draw. They need to prepare contemporary arguments for the value of having an artist-teacher teaching art in schools.
Early drawing classes also raised the question of presenting art as copying. Art students to this day need to be reminded that art is not copying, reproducing drawings outlined by experts. Early drawing classes were clearly based on following rules, proper measuring, copying as the way to see the truth. Some drawing experts suggested copying drawing manuals; later the emphasis was on copying art masterpieces, and casts of classical figures. Another path in early drawing lessons was to copy nature.
Some art classes today still copy magazine photographs, or reproductions of adult art. It has been a long journey in art education to move from copying and imitation to interpreting what the artist sees and feels.

A Manual-Training Drawing Class
in Saginaw, Michigan (1912)

Passing by rooms with motor-driven lathes, band saws, and boring machines, one can meet with Mr. William Mason, the drawing teacher in the Saginaw school. Mason studied art and manual training at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Before coming to northern Michigan, Mason taught manual training at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. While sitting behind his handsome Arts and Crafts style desk made by students in the school, Mason speaks of the close cooperation between art and manual training in the practical-arts courses offered at the school. He explains,
When drawing...

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