Art and Adolescence

 

2341483224_c49e875d42_bPortait of a Youth by Sandro Botticelli

I’ve been given a chance to teach art to middle school students at a private school in the fall. I actually really enjoy working with this age group. I read a book recently that compared the adolescent brain to a waterfall–so much, coming so fast, that it’s better to constructively divert the flow than try to arrest it.

Visual art provides great opportunities for creative ways to divert the flow. I’m preparing my curriculum and materials, and I thought I’d ask Ricochet members about their experiences of taking art classes during pre-adolescence and adolescence.

What art did you study–or what art projects did you do–that still stay with you, for better or worse? What type of art do you wish you’d studied when you were in middle school or junior high?

Have your preferences in art changed since then? If so, in what ways?

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I don’t know how much flexibility you have, but this is fascinating: Tim’s Vermeer

    • #1
  2. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Good for you! Great for your students!

    My preferences change the more I see and learn. I don’t create myself but I love to see the work.

    Keep us posted please.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Karen  What art did you study or art projects did you do that still stay with you, for better or worse?

    In junior high, we had a rotation of six “arts” which included: cooking, woodshop, drafting, sewing, and two that were more graphic arts/design. I had to have gone through these things for three years, but I don’t remember much. I vaguely remember a project in one of the art modules that used India ink on paper and another where we made beads by rolling paper strips and painting them to make jewelry. From this last, you may be able to date the hippy-dippy period in which I went to school.

    Actually, in fourth or fifth grade, I remember some print making exercises where we carved a rubber plate into a picture, and then inked it up and made prints. We also did something with some copper plate, but I don’t remember the project so well.

    What type of art do you wish you studied when you were in middle school/junior high?

    Renaissance and Enlightenment masters, and how to do it, thus my previous comment.

    Have your art preferences changed since middle school? And if so, in what ways?

    I would hope so. “Middle school” was oops-I-ran-out-of-fingers-and-toes-to-count years ago for me. My wife works at a studio arts school, so I have been heavily exposed to contemporary art. Most is junk. I like the whimsical.

    • #3
  4. Karen Inactive
    Karen
    @Karen

    IArahant:I don’t know how much flexibility you have, but this is fascinating: Tim’s Vermeer

    That looks very interesting! Thanks. I love his work. I even went through a Vermeer phase in college. This is a lousy photo of one from my iPhone, but you’ll get the gist.aroomofonesownI’ve spent so much time pouring over his paintings at the NGA in DC. I understand the fascination.

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Karen :I’ve spent so much time pouring over his paintings at the NGA in DC. I understand the fascination.

    After you watch this, you’ll find it even more fascinating.

    • #5
  6. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    The High in Atlanta hosted The Girl with a Pearl Earring along with The Goldfinch and a few Reubens. The Girl with a Pearl Earring was in a room by itself. People chatted amongst themselves until they got to that room, then silence fell. It was ethereal to experience.

    • #6
  7. Karen Inactive
    Karen
    @Karen

    Arahant:

    Karen

    I’ve found that many adults were first introduced to their favorite artists in middle school. With this in mind, I want to chose depth over breadth. I first fell in love with Michelangelo in the 8th grade, but not as a result of my art teacher. Because most people are visual learners the type of art projects they remember doing are particularly interesting to me. They remember the ones they hated or loved, but that’s usually how people remember art – by extremes.

    • #7
  8. J. D. Fitzpatrick Inactive
    J. D. Fitzpatrick
    @JDFitzpatrick

    I only became interested in visual art in college. But I have a few suggestions based on my own love of art now and my experience as a teacher.

    1. Teach what you love.

    2. Focus on a few genres–portrait and nature scenes are probably better choices than historical scenes and still lifes–and explore the manifold ways in which they are developed.

    3. Show preliminary sketches. It can be really enlightening to see how much prep goes into a painting (not to mention how good the prep is of itself)

    4. Try to dig up examples of bad art as a foil for the good stuff–basic failures of perspective, color balance, imaginative vision

    5. Bring in a working artist who will explain how she works and perhaps demonstrate her craft live. Or take them on a field trip to an artist’s studio, if they can behave themselves.

    • #8
  9. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    I would have liked to learn how to draw.

    I would have liked to learn how to play the piano too, but I have neither the rhythm nor the sense of tone to be able to do that. I lack the je ne sais quoi to understand art at all. It’s not just that I don’t know art, it’s that only with difficulty can I tell what I like.

    But I would like to know how to draw well. The ability to accurately represent an object on paper would be really useful. I understand realism to be yesterday’s news in the arts, but that doesn’t bother me.

    • #9
  10. Indaba Member
    Indaba
    @

    J. D. Fitzpatrick:I only became interested in visual art in college. But I have a few suggestions based on my own love of art now and my experience as a teacher.

    1. Teach what you love.

    2. Focus on a few genres–portrait and nature scenes are probably better choices than historical scenes and still lifes–and explore the manifold ways in which they are developed.

    3. Show preliminary sketches. It can be really enlightening to see how much prep goes into a painting (not to mention how good the prep is of itself)

    4. Try to dig up examples of bad art as a foil for the good stuff–basic failures of perspective, color balance, imaginative vision

    5. Bring in a working artist who will explain how she works and perhaps demonstrate her craft live. Or take them on a field trip to an artist’s studio, if they can behave themselves.

    Excellent suggestions.

    number 3 works well for young mathematicians or engineering brains. Went to a Colville exhibit and my sons who do not embrace art gallery visits were fascinated by the perspective drawings as their engineering degrees get them to draw free hand and they need perspective tools.

    • #10
  11. Mrs. of England Inactive
    Mrs. of England
    @MrsofEngland

    In junior high I was taught about Mondrian and it is something I have never forgotten.   I grew up disliking modern art and I still do dislike most of it much to my husband’s despair.  Mondrian was in that category until I learned about his artistic development from Dutch Impressionism through Cubism to the De Stijl movement of the 1920s.  He is an interesting artist to learn about as his influence can still be seen in popular culture today (everything from 1960s iconic fashion to 21st century album covers). 

    • #11
  12. The Great Adventure! Inactive
    The Great Adventure!
    @TheGreatAdventure

    I despised art classes. They were mandatory through the 7th grade, so the end of that year was one of the most gratifying of my education.

    It’s not that I don’t like art, it’s that I was the proverbial “can’t draw a straight line with a ruler” kid and I certainly never received any encouragement.

    My daughter, on the other hand is a very talented artist (performing as well as visual). Her high school years were somewhat frustrating since her schedule simply didn’t have enough room to accommodate choir (symphonic and a Capella), drama and art. She’s now working on a Graphic Arts degree.

    • #12
  13. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I got deeply involved in my kids’ middle school as a volunteer, and mostly in arts programs, including music and writing. During the day, I was involved with enrichment programs. After school, I was involved with classical music programs (and I am not a musician–the kids knew more than I do and did).

    Middle school-aged kids can’t get enough of the arts. It’s a great age because they have time on their hands to try the arts. I really wanted to encourage the kids. And it’s my favorite age. The kids are so excited to be alive and to learn about this wonderful world around them. Every day is fun.

    The developmental psychologists say that middle school kids need to be involved “heart, mind, body, and soul.” How true that is! I love this age.

    [continued to next comment]

    • #13
  14. Ricochet Thatcher
    Ricochet
    @VicrylContessa

    I wonder if some Dürer and Delacroix might capture the attention of the boys, while Monet and Raphael might hold the girls’ interest.

    • #14
  15. Indaba Member
    Indaba
    @

    Art is powerful. I was at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto for a music evening where three musicians from different religions and cultures performed together. It was fascinating and it goes deep.

    I do think the Obama poster made an impact. I really liked the Ted Cruz one with tattoos and  I just was at my local bookstore and saw these – are these art? Can’t you guys do a Paul Ryan action figure for my desk?

    hillary-clinton-action-figure-780x439

    • #15
  16. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @KermitHoffpauir

    I vaguely remember seeing Impressionist and Dutch Masters in grammar school art classes at school.

    Now as a young parents, there were reproductions of many pieces at the local library which one could keep for 30 days, maximum two checked out at the same time.  We changed them monthly in our home.

    Not realizing that they were soaking into our two young children, our eldest while watching adults play Trivial Pursuit, proclaimed that he knew the answer to who painted “Night Watch” exclaimed Remembrandt ( of course meaning Rembrandt).  He was 6.  We were quite pleased.

    • #16
  17. PJS Coolidge
    PJS
    @PJS

    My most vivid memory of middle school art is making a clay mug.  We shaped them, learned how to attach the handle, then glazed and fired them.  I loved it!  I wish I had had more time in the school day to take a pottery class, but back then (the ’70s) there were only six periods in a day, so I could only take six classes.  The schools in my town now have, say, seven classes in a day, and eight or nine class periods, so the schedule rotates (each day starts with a different class period) so the kids can take up to nine different subjects per quarter.

    • #17
  18. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    [continued from comment 13]

    I live on Cape Cod, which is one of the major visual arts producing places in the country. We have a lot of artists of all stripes. In an effort to get the kids to expand their notion of what exactly art is, I ran a couple of “artist-in-residence days” at the school to which I invited about twenty top visual artists to the spend the day at the school doing what they do. These artists were well known in New York and Boston, and it was really generous of them to give their time to the kids. But the artists loved it. I ran two of these programs in which we literally transformed the school into an art gallery for the day.

    The most important goals I had for these programs were (1) to inspire the kids to try different arts and (2) to get them to think about what exactly art is. To get there, in addition to actually producing a piece of art in the presence of the kids, the artists also picked out one of their finished pieces for which they had preliminary sketches, sometimes photographs. The kids could see how the piece actually evolved.

    And the artists were working all day while they were there. They talked with the kids all day long.

    We had a gorgeous school to work with–a long brick hallway around a sunny courtyard, so our lighting in the “gallery” was superb.

    • #18
  19. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    [continued from comment 18]

    The theme or question for the artist-in-residence days was “What Is Art?”

    One way to help kids understand what art is is to have them see a single image reproduced as a photograph, a sketch, and a painting. It is a very fast way to evoke an emotional reaction to the question “What Is Art?” What makes something “art”? This understanding is so important in all of their studies.

    From there, the kids start exploring what they might be interested to try. What moves me? Charcoal drawings? Water colors? Photographs?

    What is the difference between art and reality? Is there a difference? Why is art sometimes so much more real than reality? Why does a painted portrait look somehow more real than a photograph of this person?

    From that experience, we hoped the kids would then be interested to try their own artworks. They would be reluctant to try to reproduce the Mona Lisa because it was too far up that ladder of skill. But they might think they could sketch their own little sister if they tried.

    It was fun. And the artists who came to school for the day loved every minute of it, and the teachers did too.

    That said, it was really something to see twenty artists arrive with all their stuff for the day. Whew. Things I’ll never forget. What was I thinking?!?

    • #19
  20. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    I hope you introduce them to Chagall.  Because: awesome

    • #20
  21. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Assuming it’s 45-50 minutes once, maybe twice a week.

    Make sure you do some things that will interest the boys.

    Dempsey and Firpo (1924), Whitney Museum of American Art

    This will mean actually making things. You could also suggest they do a Google search on Andrew Wyeth, Paul Gauguin, Michelangelo, and Auguste Renoir.  Or just “Susanna and the Elders” if you think you can get away with it. Jr. High boys will find plenty to interest them.

    To greatest extent possible, use the best materials you can afford. I’d stay away from any kind of oil, acrylic, or watercolor painting because they are demanding media and it is so difficult to get good results with cheap materials. Oil pastels are inexpensive color medium. Otherwise pencil and marker. Get good enough paper to support the medium without bleeding.

    Clay (slab, coil and pinch) would be good provided you have a way to fire it and know enough about ceramics to provide the students with clay at the right moisture content and plasticity.

    Collage, line drawing, graphite (charcoal pretty messy), oil pastels for drawing.

    A project I liked to do every year was a class book. Have the students draw a letter or number from a hat, then do a drawing to go with the letter or number. Then run a copy of the collected drawings for each student.
    For 20th & 21st Century:  Wyeth, Charles Demuth, J. C. Leyendecker, Thomas Hart Benson, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish; Picasso, Georgia O’ Keefe, M. C. Escher, Chagall. Mondrian if you must. I’d stay away from Pollock, Bacon, and those genres.

    • #21
  22. Karen Inactive
    Karen
    @Karen

    Mrs. of England:In junior high I was taught about Mondrian and it is something I have never forgotten.

    It’s very interesting to see his better known geometric works in the context of his other work. You see his influence in pop culture definitely, I saw a print ad from a home improvement center that had laid out flower boxes like one of his paintings. I need to find it.

    • #22
  23. Karen Inactive
    Karen
    @Karen

    MarciN:[continued from comment 18]

    The theme or question for the artist-in-residence days was “What Is Art?”

    ….

    That said, it was really something to see twenty artists arrive with all their stuff for the day. Whew. Things I’ll never forget. What was I thinking?!?

    That’s very ambitious! I know the kids enjoyed it. What genres did your visiting artists work in?

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Karen :

    MarciN:[continued from comment 18]

    The theme or question for the artist-in-residence days was “What Is Art?”

    ….

    That said, it was really something to see twenty artists arrive with all their stuff for the day. Whew. Things I’ll never forget. What was I thinking?!?

    That’s very ambitious! I know the kids enjoyed it. What genres did your visiting artists work in?

    Everything you can imagine.  We had sculpture, photography, book illustration, but mostly watercolor and oil paintings–a lot of seascapes, naturally, boats and ships, and portraits. These artists sell to, say, IBM corporate headquarters and actual museums. The Cape is a quiet place for artists so we attract a lot of them. What inspired me to do this is when I learned that Cape Cod is variously in places 1 through 4 of the leading art-exporting regions of the country. The kids should know about this. Right?  :)

    It was an unforgettable experience for the kids, the teachers, the artists, and me. I made up a beautiful program with biographies of all the artists. I think that meant a lot to them. And the school put together a beautiful luncheon for the artists, which I know they enjoyed. And we had “museum manners” in place for the day. No problems with any of the kids at all, not even the “troublemakers.” The kids were awestruck. Truly.

    I think I slept for twenty-four hours straight afterward.

    But it was wonderful.

    • #24
  25. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I regret that I never took a formal class in the visual arts. Some instructive books are looking at me disapprovingly from the bookcase, though.

    I did receive some training in music. In middle school, I played percussion for the school, a drumset at home, and was just beginning to teach myself guitar.

    The summer after 7th grade, my private percussion instructor offered a jazz band course. Aside from some songs by Louis Armstrong, I wasn’t really interested in jazz. But I did want to learn to improvise (or maybe my parents signed me up against my will). So there I was, on a drumset or on a marimba, trying to keep up with older kids who actually knew what they were doing.

    In that course, I learned the blues scale and discovered that it was possible to make my own songs. That lesson transformed my life. I never did become a rockstar, but making music is an honor and a pleasure even if few hear the songs.

    • #25
  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Karen : What art did you study–or what art projects did you do–that still stay with you, for better or worse?

    We did drawing (pencil, chalk, oil pastel, etc), painting (mostly tempera, I think), papier mache sculpting, minor tapestry and collage projects… no pottery in middle school that I can recall….

    My favorites included:

    • Keep a sketchpad/sketchbook
    • Render a dollar bill (any way you like): my realistic rendering got me nicknamed “Counterfeiter” for a while
    • Do an oil-pastel retake of an old master (again I went for realist – a pouting “Moana Lisa” as much like the original as I could manage), along with a written report on the old master’s life and works.
    • Make a papier-mache fantastic beast. I happened to base my beast on the pictures I’d seen of stuff under a scanning electron microscope, and think just generally art projects based on SEM could be pretty cool for children.
    • Use blue photopaper and found objects to make pictures.
    • Artistically fill out a tesselated pattern (loosely based on MC Escher’s work).
    • Do collage on a cheap, flattish item like a paper plate, using images cut out of magazines, altered any way you like (obviously, nothing dirty)

    I did other (mostly realist) projects, too. But these are the ones I remember – and all fondly.

    Though I was super-into realism (still am), it’s interesting that I remember so many fantasy (non-realist) and found-object so projects fondly.

    • #26
  27. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    My rising 8th grader had a superb art teacher at the school she attended through 5th grade. The alumni of that little school all cite Janine’s art classes as the best thing about the school, and all of them (attending a wide variety of schools) say that their later art teachers are not as good. My daughter is really sorry that this is the last year she will be young enough for Janine’s summer art program.

    Janine keeps promising to write a book about teaching art. Ifor you are interested, I will ask whether she hasactually written one, and if not I would be happy to try to get some advice for you from her if you are interested.

    • #27
  28. dialm Inactive
    dialm
    @DialMforMurder

    Boys will respond to visual art better when they can get hands-on with dangerous stuff, and learn about visual art history within the wider context of general history. So if you are going to talk about Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, throw in his day-to-day struggles, the intrigue of the Papal court and the Reformation vs Counter-Reformation. Too much of this stuff was discounted as superfluous in my schooldays, leaving only “the brushstrokes” as important.

    And a heartfelt PLEASE to not put Warhol and Post-Modernism on a pedestal, just because it gets a spot in the chronological tour of every major art museum, as dictated it should by the art academia of today.

    • #28
  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    dialm:Boys will respond to visual art better when they can get hands-on with dangerous stuff…

    The boys in my middle-school art class had the best time ever with the “papier-mache a fantasy monster” project. Building something scary is fun for boys (and me, too).

    • #29
  30. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    Lucy Pevensie:My rising 8th grader had a superb art teacher at the school she attended through 5th grade.The alumni of that little school all cite Janine’s art classes as the best thing about the school, and all of them (attending a wide variety of schools) say that their later art teachers are not as good.My daughter is really sorry that this is the last year she will be young enough for Janine’s summer art program.

    Janine keeps promising to write a book about teaching art. Ifor you are interested, I will ask whether she hasactually written one, and if not I would be happy to try to get some advice for you from her if you are interested.

    And you can tell that I posted that from my phone, and it’s apparently too late to edit it.  What I meant to say was:

    Janine keeps promising to write a book about teaching art. If you are interested, I will ask whether she has actually written one, and if not I would be happy to try to get some advice for you from her.

    • #30

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