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Late Elem/Middle School Visual Art


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I wanted to feel out the community here to ask about what they are doing for visual art in the middle grades, if anything, and also feedback for an idea I have.


I am a visual artist, with a degree in art, professional art experience, and some training in art education. My oldest daughter is a 4th grader who loves to draw and paint and has recently decided it is her goal to attend as a visual arts student at a special statewide public school for the arts that starts in 7th grade. (She is currently homeschooled.)


This kind of accelerated to a higher priority something I planned on doing anyways, is offering her (around 5th grade) a more academic art education than I've seen present itself in schools or even most curricula. It has always been my firm belief that while it does require creativity and inspiration to be an artist, drawing is a skill like any other, that can be learned with instruction and practice. And a useful skill at that, for any well-rounded person, as it is a tool for communication just like writing or speaking.


So I started setting up lessons for her in the form of printables that offer instruction, reasoning, and examples. While I am teaching her verbally, I already had some of this content drawn up for homeschool art classes I had taught in the past, and I wanted to expand upon it and also provide her something that she could use for reference while doing the exercises.


The focus of the "curriculum" I'm making (If you want to call it that, but I suppose as it's shaping up, that would be fair) really approaches art as an academic subject. I don't plan on doing much to address creativity or meaning. As an artist, of course I understand creativity and meaning are VITALLY important, but I feel so many art programs available here (classes and such) are the equivalent of trying to get a child to write creatively before they firmly understand the basics of grammar, spelling, and language. I know art is *different* than a subject like grammar, and I think an intuitive exploration of creativity and media is fantastic in the lower elementary grades, but it's these middle grades/late elementary where I think students are ready to approach drawing as a skill and to understand the core fundamentals of art as an academic subject (after which, the creativity comes back into play.)


Topics I plan to approach with this: observation skills, visual deconstruction, line, shape, form, shadow, value, light, perspective, proportion, pattern, mathematical phenomenon in nature, anatomy for the artist, symmetry/asymmetry, color, composition, and the technical skills necessary to use a variety of media.


It occurred to me as I was making PDFs for my own kid, that this is something that might be of interest to other people? Is it? Is there something else you already use that covers this? If so, what do you like about it? What *don't* you like about it?

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Well, that's the thing. What I'm putting together isn't about setting a creative side free, so much as it is about teaching the skills of drawing and observation for the sake of learning fundamentals and acquiring a useful skill. (Being "free" I think, comes in early childhood, and again after fundamental skills are acquired.)


My experience in art school was that many did not have any technical skill. They were still *free* and the art world liked to endorse their work, but the truth is, their lack of technical skill was restrictive and forced limits on what they could create.

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  • 8 months later...
Hi Zenjenn,


I know this thread has been "radio silent" for a long time, but I have just joined welltrainedmind and am very interested in your ideas on the teaching of theory and skills as a basis before creativity can be fully expressed.  I am going to buy the "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" book you recommend in another thread, but I am also interested in any other recommendations or materials you might have.



- Peter (Dad of two boys: 10 and 7)


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I'm interested to hear more about where you're at with this,  as well. My oldest of my younger crew is in 4th grade, so she's the one I'm thinking of with what you're describing. I regret that one of my older ones did not have more technical training like you mentioned, as it would have really served her needs in college. 

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