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Creativity is a profoundly important topic, not only in art, but in many other areas of the curriculum. You would think that creativity is to be found in abundance in an Art room and yet all too often nothing could be further from the truth. It is very common to see ‘recipe’ art being taught. This is where every student in the class comes up with a variation on a single theme that the teacher has prescribed. For example: everyone makes an African mask, or a ceramic vase, or a cubist painting, or a flower picture. The same materials are used by everyone and the same skills incorporated. I see this type of art in every school I visit. It is very sad to see and nowhere is it to be found more than in the secondary school. I’ve done it myself for many years until I realised how much I was cheating the students. Art should be about personal expression. THEIR personal expression not yours! Their artwork should reflect their ideas, thoughts, opinions, likes and dislikes. Their imagination should be stimulated and above all, their work should look like children’s art work, not a pale copy of an early twentieth Century Cubist painting or a Georgia O’Keeffe flower. Teachers (especially art specialists) have a habit of removing creativity and taking over control of the making process to raise the quality of outcomes. This especially true of teachers who are teaching GCSE courses, where the emphasis is on getting results. Teachers have been forced down this road by the demands of schools senior management and the pressure of A*-C GCSE Grades. Many GCSE courses are made up of: Still Life Projects, Cubist Projects, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pop Art (Roy Lichtenstein) and pattern making. This does not, in my opinion reflect anyone’s art let alone that of a 16 year old! Creating anything in art takes imagination, but art can really challenge how people think and has the potential to make powerful statements about life and the world we live in. Children’s imagination is simply wonderful and the trick here is to create projects that encourage the use of imagination and how they can develop it. So the first thing we have to do is to get all of you lovely, hard working teachers to BACK OFF! I’m serious. Teachers kill creativity. They strangle self-expression with good intentions. They over plan lessons and are terrified of losing control and letting go. From the minute they were in teacher training college they created lesson plans on a minute-by-minute basis, devising every stage of learning with military precision, catering for G&T, SEN, progression, objectives, PLT’s, APP you name it they plan it. However, if you want to teach art then you are going to have to work differently. Because if you don’t then you will kill the very thing you are trying to teach: Creativity. If you want to develop creativity then look closely at the big issues that artists, engineers, mathematicians, scientists over time have struggled with. Don’t just look at what Michelangelo painted for the Sistine Chapel or even how he painted it, but try to get your students to understand what he was trying to depict. Instead of only getting your pupils to copy sections of his work, ask them to try to depict their own interpretation of heaven. These bigger issues or creative struggles are what define greatness. I have attempted to write some of my own big questions based on the great artistic struggles.


4 thoughts on “Creativity

    acstratten said:
    05/12/2014 at 10:20 pm

    Great post! Do I understand correctly that you work at the secondary level? What would you hope elementary art teachers would teach their students to prepare them to go even further with development of creativity? Especially considering that, while perhaps naturally creative, students younger than, say, grade 4 are not able to think in the abstract terms some of your questions present.

      paulcarneyarts responded:
      06/12/2014 at 11:10 am

      I think it’s important to relate what we do to themes and issues that are relevant to the children we teach because enthusiasm is paramount. If we lose that by forcing our adult sensibilities of what we feel they should learn and how they should learn it then we are sunk. So by taking the best approach we can direct questions to pupils of any age. I see the best examples of creativity at the early years stage. In the UK we lose that approach as they get older. What we should be doing is expanding the criteria for success so that we define that pupils can be successful in a variety of ways. We should be showing that there are many styles of working and allowing multi disciplinary approaches even at a young age. I taught at Primary so I know it can be done.

    acstratten said:
    05/12/2014 at 10:25 pm

    Reblogged this on WhatItMeansForArt and commented:
    This article describes a challenge with art education that is felt across the country. It shares some specific suggestions for bringing creativity into the classroom, and while I know many wonderful art teachers who do some of these things, it is always good to question what we do and strive to do better for the future of our students.

    paulcarneyarts responded:
    06/12/2014 at 11:13 am

    Obviously these questions should be rephrased for a younger audience but I’ve taught the pop art one to nine years olds. A bit of rejigging and they’d work ok

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