Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Teaching Art to Kids... and Myself

'Still Life in Reverse Charcoal' by Morgan Gilbert (2nd Grade)

Sometimes life seems so structured. Daily routines, commitments, appointments filling up each day and week until they all blur together. A left-brain world full of order, patterns, right and wrong. Did you know that before young kids start school most are driven by their right brain – the creative, unstructured, emotional side? But by the time they leave high school only 3% are right-brain driven. We teach that of course, that there are right and wrong ways to do things, a ‘right’ way to write, to draw, to calculate, to think and that left-brain careers are more valued than right-brain ones. We pay our accountants and engineers and bankers more than artists and social workers and musicians, right?

I fell into the mold – went into engineering, got my masters, worked in aerospace. I applied myself and accomplished things but was never really happy and never really great at it. I think my right brain was yearning to exert itself. But I never really thought about art. You see, I was not an artist. I couldn’t draw. And the little girl who loved to color everything around her was squelched inside the ‘me’ who told myself I was not good at art. There were so many years that I floundered – kind-of good at a lot of things, not great at anything and I thought it was
important to be great, to have a ‘responsible’ career, to make lots of money. Now I realize it is important to enjoy, to experiment, to push myself in new and different directions.

'3-D Snowman' by Morgan Gilbert (3rd Grade)

I teach basic art (drawing, painting, color theory) to 1st through 6th graders at my son’s schools, not because I have a talent for drawing, but because I don’t. I’m learning with them. My goal is to reach those kids who doubt their own talents as they compare themselves to the kid next to them. I have finally realized that we can learn anything once we gain confidence in ourselves – and what better ego-booster for the kids than in creating a piece of art that is better than the teacher’s?!

'Self Portrait' by Brandon Gilbert (1st Grade)

Most of all, I believe it is vital to develop both sides of the brain - and the really successful in any field are those that do just that. Because after all, engineers without imagination, creativity and vision are… just engineers. And artists need some sense of form, balance and proportion to convey their message.

'Hot and Cold Pumpkins' by 4th Grader

I'm learning by experimenting, by observing, by teaching, by pushing myself. And not listening so much to that voice telling me I can't.


  1. You have made a good start.. somehow there is nothing as fulfilling when u create something..it may not be perfect- but it is yours...!!

  2. You must be a good teacher, your students are producing some great work.
    You're so right, balance is important & we all need encouragement at times.