The Process of Creating

Kim Skeen | Brevard, NC

Sitting on the shelf behind my desk in the art room is a box of crayons. This is not just any box of crayons. It is a very, very old box of 64 Crayola crayons with the sharpener built in the back. I keep this box of crayons out where I can see it every day as a reminder of my childhood, where my love of art began. I remember receiving this box of crayons and all of the possibility that this box represented. Seeing this ratty old box of crayons every day reminds me that art with children should be about the process and not the product.

Too often we get caught up in the product especially when it comes to creating. Whether it is a song, a play, or a  piece of visual art, so much emphasis is placed on the quality of the product.

Kids naturally want to create and are often so excited to learn to use a new tool or explore a new medium. However, all too often I hear, “Ms. Kim, do you like my artwork?” during art class.  I try to respond with more questions like, “tell me about your artwork,” or, “how do you feel about your artwork?”

There is a place for “product” art. It helps the student develop fine motor skills, allows them to work on following directions, and teaches them about concepts like color, shape, and form. Process art is all about discovery, exploration, problem-solving, and creativity. Process art allows students to gain confidence as well as have the ability to express themselves in a creative way. It builds their self-esteem allowing them to create what comes naturally instead of feeling like they have to reproduce something in a certain way. The student is given the freedom to create without expectations of what their artwork should look like or worried about someone else liking it or not. It allows for mistakes, problem-solving, and a natural creative process to emerge.

The Montessori classroom environment is all about the process. Students are encouraged to explore work independently and the learning happens throughout the process. The focus of the child’s work is not based on a final grade or product but on the child’s ability to deeply understand what they are learning. Montessori education supports the child’s development of their imagination and self-expression.

Encouraging creativity at home is also important and can be done very easily. You can set up a “creation station” for your child. This is a designated space for them to create with easy access to materials. You can stock this special area with materials like markers, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, watercolor paints, brushes, construction paper, yarn and drawing paper. You can also collect items from nature such as acorn caps, flower petals, leaves, and small pebbles. It is important to give kids the time and space for open-ended exploration of materials and tools.

After teaching art at Mountain Sun for many years I have enjoyed watching students grow and develop their creativity. Many of the current middle school students have been at Mountain Sun since pre-school. It is amazing to watch their process with each art project. These students have developed strong skills but they are also imaginative problem solvers, which is just what this world needs!

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