I’ve mentioned a few times that every week, I get the opportunity to teach the elementary schoolers art. We do color theory, drawings, sometimes I brave the world of painting but it’s stressful and messy and we only have 45 minutes. A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time teaching art to the middle schoolers.
Let me tell you, I had them all fooled.
They don’t realize that I am a photographer, much better with light and lenses and moving objects than paints and pencils and chalk pastels. In fact, where those things are concerned, I am actually rather clueless. I do know how to mix colors, and I do know how to layer things…but beyond that, I just fake it. When asked how to draw hands or noses or shadows on mountains I feel the panic rise up in me a bit, sweat on the back of my neck. Not that I’m worried they’ll find me out. It’s not like I’m faking being an artist, or that I’m not a “real artist”. But I do have a lot of books I can refer to, and I brought my book on drawing faces (praise God for that moment of forethought!), and there’s always the internet that is incredibly helpful.
I think my favorite thing about teaching art is the fact that “being an artist” doesn’t really have to go by one definition. When the little kids ask “Are you a REAL artist?” I respond with “Yes, of course I am.” With all truth. And then I tell them that they are too.
The great thing about teaching art is that I have learned 10 times more from the kids than they have from me. What I can offer is encouragement, affirmation, and a safe place to explore. I can tell them to paint the lighter colors first and then layer on the dark ones…but please please please don’t ask me to help you sketch a horse or a peacock.
What they offer me? They offer a glimpse of the divine. That God has created us all as creative beings. That every single person on earth has it in them, from the kindergartner to the grown adult who thought it was long gone. I watch some of the first graders get a look of rapture on their face when they discover that yellow and blue makes green, and “Oh, Miss Kathryn, it is so beautiful! Look what I made!” I get to witness a child who used to hate everything they made and throw it in the trash say “Wait, what? It’s lunchtime? Who cares about eating, I want to keep painting, because this is looking so good.”
There’s something profound in what art does to all human souls. It helps us untangle our subconscious, I think. It helps us have a way of saying things words don’t allow. It gives us freedom and boldness to say “Yes, I can make something beautiful.” And if that can be done in a drawing or painting or photography, it can translate to all of life and our relationships.
The other day, while teaching art, someone put on a YouTube video called “Bob Ross Remixed”. OH, it was delightful and hilarious. You know what I love about him? He was so encouraging, so affirming. “There’s no such thing as mistakes, only happy accidents” was one of his most famous lines. It’s true! But the deeper part of helping someone work through their fears and insecurities is something that I want to spend my life doing!
So, yes. In many ways I am a fake as an art teacher. My education was in photography, and I have only learned to paint from a few blogs and one “Canvases and Cocktails” class. But as I watch kids grow in confidence and excitement over their work, and realize that they too are “real artists”, I feel like I’ve got the education I need to back that up.