Discipline is the Basis of Creative Arts Based Practice


Daily illustration of a Haiku based gratitude list inspires class and keeps them motivated.

There is something odd about modern art, in particular modern Visual Art. Somewhere during last century the idea came into being that formal tuition and regular practice killed creativity.   It is actually a hard undercurrent to detect – but an unmistakably, unshakeable one that permeates the whole of the Visual Arts nonetheless.

To tease out what is really going on, one has to understand the difference between training, education and learning by inquiry.  When a student reaches university, they are expected to take a topic, even at times invent their own topic and research this topic by synthesising the work of others or by developing practical application in the studio based on their own exploration, experimentation and research.

The Trouble with Universities

The trouble is that students sometimes don’t have the basic knowledge to cope with this kind of self-directed activity.  Whether a student is technoheutagogic, syneragogic or still in a position whereby they are dependent on receiving information from the teacher can often be traced back to the kind of school they originally came from.  By this, I mean we need to question whether the school was designed to

  •        Instil a sense of self discipline
  •       Teach the student to learn how to learn
  •       Encourage the student to learn by teaching
  •       Provide project based education scaffolding towards self-direction    wherever possible

The Trouble with Schools

For some reason it became fashionable in primary schools to give students art as though it were essentially free time.  Rather than structured guidance about how to draw or paint, students were given a topic and more or less asked to work out how to paint or draw it for themselves.

Unfortunately many adults today have become discouraged during that process because when they couldn’t work out for themselves the complications of perspective or colour they came to the belief that they just weren’t talented.   This had a perpetuating effect because now these adults are teaching children in schools. Because there is not enough value placed on Visual Art in schools, it is quite easy for people to either avoid Visual Art or to reward students with art as somewhat a leisure activity.

Solution Focused Thinking

One way around this problem is to tackle the issues that surround Primary Art education head on.  How easy would it be for teachers to draw for five minutes every morning as a way to start the day?  Drawing is a relaxed and focused activity and when it is done in a non-threatening manner all students can easily be engaged.

The benefits of this approach would be

  •         Settled focused beginning to each day
  •          Valuing of drawing in such a way as to bring it into the normal daily activity base
  •          Students would learn to see
  •         Teachers could practice drawing in a disciplined way
  •          Both students and teacher would be on a self-reinforcing learning loop

A Suggested Way to Sustain a Daily Drawing Habit of Creativity

Positive psychologists have for a long time sung the praises of maintaining a gratitude list.  They claim that “what we think about and thank about we bring about.” Put simply it is healthy to have a warm and grateful attitude in any classroom.   In Global Citizen, the simple Haiku is put forward as a way to focus student attention and to capture fleeting impressions and emotions.  If teachers taught students from an early age how to construct Haiku they could start the day by

  •       Choosing one thing to be grateful for each morning
  •       Focus by writing a Haiku to capture the essential nature of that “thing”
  •       Once the Haiku has been written into the students Visual Journal they could illustrate their poem

The Classroom Uses of Daily Illustrated Haiku

One can imagine a class becoming good at improvised writing and undaunted by the task of illustrating. As the class learns about both poetry writing and drawing together, the desire to learn should empower students and teachers to use Just In Time Instruction from the internet to learn how to draw.

A Just In Time Learning Scenario  

Let us say that a child comes to school and has been given a new Barbie doll for her birthday.  This is what she would like to be grateful for today.

Awesome Barbie Doll

Given to me by my mum

Because she loves me

Let’s say that the child (we’ll call her Jane) finds it really hard to draw a Barbie doll and when she shows the class, she says so.  The solution is all too simple!  Look up an instructional and watch it together.  You do not need to actually take the time to practise – just show the class that there is a way of finding out that information – they can follow up on that lead as any flipped classroom child would do.   Or perhaps use it later as an activity to settle the class straight after lunch.

The point of all of this is that you have set a ball of reinforced learning in motion.  The students come to school expecting to draw, it is valued both by the students and the teacher as a way of leading them into writing, which in turn leads them back to drawing.

If this method of working truly took on a disciplined approach by Christmas each child in the class would have a fantastic anthology to be covered and presented as a Christmas present to the family.

Imagine the class display come Art exhibition time!

Students, teachers and artists feel supported in the idea of daily discipline, I am going to use one of the discussion spaces on the Understanding Performance Art channel to illustrate one Haiku daily.  Please join me.

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