When I was asked to write an article about art and the methods of teaching, learning and how these methods have evolved, it took me on a nostalgic journey. Along with nostalgia, paradox was an uninvited tag-along though. Shall I question the ideologies of my favourite teachers and the methods they adopted? Shall I debunk all those theories I learnt and open my mind to new ways of thinking? Would that be defying the artist in me and my peers? I don’t want to contradict my statements as I am a teacher myself now but undoubtedly the methods and the rudimentary ways of teaching art have evolved. From the formal classroom, where students are actively engaged in top loading and mugging up, to students collaborating and doing hands on work, it has been an effective change!
We all try to impart knowledge about primary and secondary colours and how warm and cool colours are linked with our feelings and emotions. If I were to teach like I was taught I would have made a chart of warm and cool colours and asked my students to file this and remember it every time they saw an illustration. However, I have adopted different ways to tell my students how we can convey our emotions through colours, how different art forms evoke our emotional state, how meditation and art are related, and how to use art as a medium of calming and building focus for a seven year old. We started this unique inquiry into feelings and emotions by playing live music in the background. Students were given paints and sheets of paper on which to express their feelings and emotions. The whole idea of having a live band play while they were drawing and painting thrilled the students. Even though they were initially hesitant and not sure how to colour their emotions, after a lot of questions and prodding the students were overjoyed that they could draw and paint. Students were allowed to work in groups. It was mesmerizing to see how the children brainstormed for new ideas and set about making their own unique creations. Once they finished drawing, a few select colours were given to the students with clear instructions not to mix the colours and not to ask for colours they were not given. The results were outstanding. I was not looking so much at their drawing, the idea was to introduce them to warm and cool colours. I felt my mission was accomplished when the students made their own connections and observed that the artworks looked different from each other. Some had given the cool look because of the cool shades, few students also linked them with cool breeze, freeze, ice, water. Whereas, the other group came up with words like warm, summer sun, hot, fire.
The art works were displayed on the wall for a whole year and the concept of warm and cool colours remained fresh in their memory. Evidence shows that arts education provides students with the skills to think creatively, to innovate, and to become tenacious learners ready to solve complex problems – all skills that employers are increasingly looking for in the 21st century. Students who get quality arts education are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have lower rates of behavioural problems, and higher attendance rates.
The author is a specialist educator in visual arts in Pathways school, Noida. She has been teaching for nearly a decade now and has experience teaching in both urban and rural settings. She can be reached at email@example.com.