Children were sitting together as I carefully picked up each ‘masterpiece’, mounted and framed, and labeled with a title. They knew this was IT, seeing the results of their love and labor. I held up each piece, one at a time, as if it were the Mona Lisa. Then, I slowly panned each work of art to the audience and simply said the title and artist; “The Storm the White House and the Grass, by Dillon”, “The Big Scissors, by Hannah”, “Charlotte, by Ella”. Twenty-two pieces of beautiful art, and each one brought spontaneous comments from their peers: Eleni said, “That is so beautiful.” Jackson said, “Whoa!” Frankly, each piece of art they saw drew a wonderful comment. When I asked children, “What will all these masterpieces look like hanging together on a wall?” Miles immediately shouted out, “An art museum!” He was right. After carefully hanging all the art pieces, it does indeed look like an art museum.
The Art Show this year focused on France. Some children painted in the style of Claude Monet, some duplicated Henri Matisse’s large cut-outs, some painted freely. We explored many artists and styles of art, from Cubism to Impressionism. We even tried our hand at Early Renaissance art, painting with gold on wood. Children loved it all, because they were empowered with real tools, encouragement, and a free imagination.
Books and reading aloud are a given in my classroom, multiple times a day. What a big difference books make to art. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans is a favorite picture book, and Avery painted a lovely rendition.
Colin, the boy who painted in the style of Vassily Kandinsky last year, was incredibly excited to create large cut-outs in the style of Henri Matisse. Yet, as he tried his hand with various mediums, he was drawn to Claude Monet, especially the painting, Gladioli.
Every year I am stunned at the end result. You see, the real learning is in the process of doing, and the product takes care of itself. I give children the excitement of doing with stories of art and artists. This year I read Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter. Henri Matisse created his large cut-outs later in his life, with his assistants painting the paper for him. Of course we had to paint our own paper to prepare for making cut-outs. I couldn’t get the paper onto the table fast enough for the children to paint! We learned how he drew the faces of his grandchildren on the ceiling with a long pole while in bed.
We looked at real photos of Monet’s gardens and compared them to his paintings. I stopped to ask, “How did he do that?” When children responded as to how, I paused as if I had learned something new. Then I said, “Hannah, you could do that!” She beamed and nodded her head. That opened the door for looking at other works of art, and with each piece I repeated the same thing. After looking at Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso and finding the geometric shapes, I said “Luca, you could do that!” Not only did he say yes, the following week he stumbled across the art in a book and was bursting to show me. “Jennie, look! It’s the Three Musicians!”
So, what is happening here? I’m teaching far more than various styles of art and about different artists; I am filling children with curiosity and giving them the validation that they can do it. I am genuinely excited, because I know they want to learn and do. Enthusiasm is infectious and the beginning of the process. In this case, the magnificent masterpieces are the resulting product.