Just a little over a week ago, I wrapped my yearly children’s art classes at Artistic Dreams International, and I can’t say enough how rewarded and blessed I feel, to see the changes that occur in these kids when their minds are brought into focus, and their eyes are opened up to their true potential.
Last year I taught an all-inclusive, basics-building drawing class that ranged from perspective to observation, from contour-drawing to self-portraiture, and it was fantastic! We packed so much within 3 short hours a day, that I knew each child found at least one lesson that they could really hold onto, and bring into their future art projects.
This year, however, I was informed that may of the children had shown an interest in learning more technically advanced drawing skills. Thus, I was inspired to take things up a notch, incorporate some mixed media, and truly challenge them.
Drawing Exercise: Photos-to-Drawings Picture Grids.
The results, from kids no older than 8 or 9, and some as young as 4 and 5 (not pictured here), speak for themselves:
Now, normally I’d recommend this exercise for kids ages 10 and up, but with help (especially with the grid construction), even much younger children can get something out of it. I took the liberty of making a video of how I created my own Picture Grid: this one I call the “Surrealist Half-Picture,” because much like in Surrealist art, most of the drawing is recognizable and fairly realistic, but I added a few unusual details (which the kids really enjoyed), to make it all my own.
I showed this video to the children at the start of class, and immediately I could see how it motivated them to get started!
As always, teaching was super fun, but two elements of the class stood apart as my favorites of the day:
1) That golden period where all the kids are eagerly bent over their work, hushed and focused on their pieces, happy & in their own little worlds.
And 2) That magic moment when a child is nearing the completion of their work, and they lean back from it, only to realize that – WOW! It actually looks like the picture! I remember this moment vividly for myself when I was a kid doing a grid exercise; it was one of the first times I realized I could really draw if I put my mind to it, and it was a tremendous self-esteem booster. It is deeply gratifying to see a new generation experience that same revelatory and positive feeling.
So what’s the takeaway? It’s this: Art Matters. Artistic Dreams educates young people with little or no access to the arts. Without ADI, many of these kids would never have the opportunity to learn from professional artists and uncover their hidden talents. Some of these children have learning disabilities, are monitored by case workers, or have trouble in school. In an academic setting, they may be labeled as different; or perhaps just as bad, they might be educated in a classroom so crowded, they receive no individual attention at all.
Not at ADI. The ratio of teachers to students can be as low as 1 to 3 (I had 3 teaching assistants myself!); every child receives individual attention; and every child is treated as though they are as competent and capable as all the others. For example, we had one student who was diagnosed with ADHD, and yet, they were able to sit quietly for over an hour, creating a beautiful, highly detailed drawing that any child would be proud to show a parent. Imagine if they could apply that same focus to a math problem or a reading passage? (Read my recent post: Art Education Matters»)
And I don’t take the credit for this. I may have designed the drawing lesson, but ADI has created a program that is truly unique: incorporating yoga, meditation, leadership skills, and accountability into the art curricula that art teachers like myself, bring to the classroom. I have never experienced anything like it — I was just as happy to learn yoga as the children were — and it is a model that I hope can be utilized in academic and extracurricular settings across the country, because it works!
I donate my time and art materials to ADI because they utilize art and music to transform the lives of students all over the world. It doesn’t matter if we reach 10 students or 10,000 – to me, it’s worth every penny and every effort. But of course, the more kids we can reach, the more lives that can be changed. If you want to learn more, please visit ArtisticDreams.org, or make a donation here», and help ADI expand its amazing outreach.
Thanks so much for reading, and until next time,