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does art matter?

(67 Posts)
jrrtolkien Sun 03-Feb-13 10:59:31

Of course it matters if you enjoy it or you need it for your job. But what if you don't like doing it and are pretty useless at it? Is it worth the effort to improve?

Both my children are quite good academically, enjoy sports, enjoy music but not art. Neither have ever shown the remotest interest in drawing or colouring in, even I always had paints and colouring books for them since they we're babies.
Now they are in their last years at Primary and their drawings etc are probably the worst in the class and they hate doing them. Unfortunately, they both seem to get a lot of drawing work to do e.g. draw a storyboard.
Is,it worth me trying again to teach them how to draw or at the very least colour in nearly?

Ferguson Sun 03-Feb-13 22:50:05

Hi - ex-TA (male) here :

As your post has been ignored all day I thought I'd reply to you!

I don't know if art can really be 'taught' if a person has no interest or aptitude for it. I was never much good at ordinary drawing or painting, but when I was older I was VERY good at technical drawing, with rulers, compasses etc, and I did even wonder about trying to be an architect, but that idea didn't last long.

You don't say if they are boys, girls or one of each (not that it makes much difference really.) Also when I was primary age I went in for a 'gummed paper craft' competition, which involved tracing shapes onto the back of the appropriate colour gummed paper, cutting it out and sticking it down in the correct part of the picture; I won a book for my effort.

As your children will be transferring to secondary in a year or two, it would be a minor advantage if they can draw or copy still-life items; I remember I had to draw things like a half-open matchbox, and for that a knowledge of perspective and distance are required. Our DS at grammar school had to take his tie off and draw it. You also mentioned music : do they play any instruments, as that is a useful skill and good for social reasons, as well as creative.

Of course, these days a lot of art work can be done on the computer, either with a vector DRAWING prog, my favourite being : but there are cheaper or even free children's progs, or a PAINTING prog which probably came with your computer software.

Looking at the work of famous artists may give a glimmer of stimulation to your DCs, and there is masses of that on the web. Some artists make millions from abstract paintings, which might look like they have been done by a child, but it must be having the original ideas that is the important part. Back in the '70s I went to a Bridget Riley exhibition and I love her work, which looks like it's been done by computer, but hasn't :

Books can teach the basics of drawing and painting : shape, perspective, texture, shading etc, and quality pencils HB, B, 2B, 3B or softer, are nice to use. Painting can be watercolours, oils or there are modern acrylics, and may be others I don't know about. Colour pencils or pastels are not too expensive, and can be enjoyable to use.

Being brave and 'having a go' is probably they best thing they could do; don't worry about the results, but just create something different and new, and see what turns out!

Good luck.

tethersend Sun 03-Feb-13 23:03:27

I'm an art teacher- I really wouldn't worry, as most of a secondary art teacher's time is spent getting students to unlearn the crap they were taught at primary school.

"Being brave and 'having a go' is probably they best thing they could do; don't worry about the results, but just create something different and new, and see what turns out!"

This is exactly right. Art (well, art education) is about the process, not the result. Experimenting with different materials and making a complete mess will get you a higher NC level than a colouring in neatly.

Whilst the formal elements are still important in art education, other facets such as recording, exploring, comparing etc. make up the assessment. Your children may not enjoy drawing storyboards, but they may enjoy debating the function of art. Go and see some exhibitions with them instead of teaching them to colour in, and then decide whether they are interested in art or not smile

learnandsay Sun 03-Feb-13 23:16:25

From a non didactic point of view I would have said that it helps in certain circumstances. If you're drawing a story board it helps if you can draw. But it's also possible to draw one using matchstick men. Look how far Lowery got. And although Picasso was actually very good at impressionist/proper painting he's actually remembered for painting square people with orange, yellow and blue faces. So, my guess is when you say art, you probably don't mean "art", you probably mean the ability to represent your idea in pictorial form. Yes. It's useful. But it's by no means essential.

jrrtolkien Mon 04-Feb-13 00:32:25

Thanks for your replies. I have taken them to art galleries though not for 3 years. Maybe I can try again...

I've been thinking about it today and I guess all those story boards and title pages they keep getting are because teachers would see drawing as something every child can do to an extent. Every child except my two.
I guess they.will need to improve or else they won't be able to draw diagrams of science experiments or maps for.geography or anything for history when.they get to secondary.
It's comforting to hear that they will get a fresh start for learning about art at secondary though.

I had an easel, colouring in books, glue, glitter and enough colouring pens and pencils to supply a classroom for a year but they would always rather play with their other toys when little and the interest just never came.
Sorry about the phone autocorrect errors!

RaisinBoys Mon 04-Feb-13 06:43:25

love that tethersend as the mother of a DS who have never really coloured in nicely but loves colour and texture and experimenting and who has often been made to feel that his stuff is not "neat enough" by school TA's.

legalalien Mon 04-Feb-13 07:00:06

My ds is the same. He's in year 3 and has project homework every weekend that almost always involves a picture. He'd much rather do spelling or maths!

Rightly or wrongly i've been encouraging him to accept his limitations in terms of drawing lifelike options and try and come up with creative ideas. This week he made a "constellation picture" with black paper, silver star stickers and "join the dots" with a white pencil - much easier than drawing the thing that he was supposed to do! Tracing using baking paper also good (luckily he can colour in ok). No complaints from the teacher so far.....

LindyHemming Mon 04-Feb-13 07:10:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EarlyInTheMorning Mon 04-Feb-13 07:11:56

I was going to ask the exact same question as Euphemia.

lljkk Mon 04-Feb-13 11:25:01

I've same question about "what crap things" do they need to unlearn.

I suppose Art is like sport or music, helpful to make the effort, brilliant if it comes to you easily, but not essential for getting on in life (whereas poor numeracy and literacy would be reason to worry).

My moan is drama... schools seem to do a lot of it and I struggle to see the value.

learnandsay Mon 04-Feb-13 11:30:17

Drama is probably popular because it's easy to teach.

PastSellByDate Mon 04-Feb-13 12:15:40

Hi jrrtolkein:

Let's start with just limiting art to drawing/ painting. Of course it is impossible for every child to be good or even excel at this - but let's be honest - there are all sorts of other forms of art:


link to Australian webpage:

so just because one medium of artistic expression is difficult or not enjoyable for your children, doesn't mean there aren't any out there.

I'm personally a sucker for beautifully black and white photography and adore Ansel Adams (e.g. - and I think we all can agree that photography is accessible to all but those with impaired or no vision.

I think the point about 'art' is observation - seeing something in a new or different way. A closeup of a part of a plant or bark on a tree can be incredibly surprising. As a child my parents subscribed me to a children's version of National Geographic magazine and my favourite part was a section with high powered microscopy images of everyday things - it actually really blew my mind to see a close up of an ants antenna or a butterfly wing.

Drawing is eye - hand coordination and it isn't always instant and to be good it takes practice. So it sounds to me that one thing to tackle is the method - how they approach drawing something (and there are plenty of how to draw books and little you tube videos out there). Another thing to tackle is how to look at something - can you see the underlying shapes (circle for head, rectangle for torso, elongated triangles for legs, etc....).

Art Attack and similar on CBBC/ CITV are really worth watching - because all sorts of different types of artwork are being made and there really is something for everyone.

So my advice is this - don't limit yourself to just drawing/ colouring/ painting - explore other types of art making and do try to take a positive attitude - because the skill of closely observing an object or a scene and recalling certain facts about it is important, regardless of what you go on to do in life.


jrrtolkien Mon 04-Feb-13 13:40:19

Yes, I have to agree that art is much more than just line drawings, colouring in and a bit of painting. But these are the things my children struggle with (especially drawing). They are bad... DS2's teacher raised it with me last year as an issue. So I went out and bought Art Academy for their DSi and they did (some) fo the exercises - joylessly.

Then I sat down with them and showed them how to look for shapes, consider perspective, use light strokes and then copy a drawing I did, stroke by stroke. Followed with loads of praise etc.

But a year on, we are still stuck. Yesterday I couldn't work out what DS2 had drawn... it was the partoing of the Red Sea for moses apparently.

The problem is they are just not interested

pixi2 Mon 04-Feb-13 13:44:26

Music is an art form. Wouldn't worry too much about 'art'. I love drawing and painting but what makes art 'art' is different for everyone. I love the pre raphaelites and hate modern art which, to me, isn't art. My best male friend from school is a sculpture, he does a lot if modern shapes. Each to their own.

pixi2 Mon 04-Feb-13 13:50:44

Sorry about the spelling mistakes. Was casting my eye over the modern art my two dc have created on the table with their spaghetti bolognaise. Yuk.

superfluouscurves Mon 04-Feb-13 15:07:07

I agree with PastSellbyDate that art is really about looking and observing the world around you and children are usually great at that because they don't have any preconceived ideas or prejudices that inform what they see.

But disagree with Ferguson when he says it cannot be taught. I strongly believe that everyone can be taught art up to a certain level of competence - like any other subject - it takes practice and commitment.

As for whether it is essential; I would say definitely 'yes' but it depends on one's priorities in life I guess. (I find it difficult to work out whether I've been given the right change at the supermarket blush which most people would consider a much more essential skill)

Everyone has different strengths - I think you have hit the nail on the head when you mention the word 'joyless'!! If you want your dc to engage with art and find it stimulating, then maybe you could do it backwards by first finding a subject that they are interested in and then exploring that subject through photography (disposable cameras), mosaic, shadow pictures, sculpture, crafts such as metalwork or sewing etc etc

superfluouscurves Mon 04-Feb-13 15:08:28

Agree with Ferguson about being brave and having a go though!

Happypiglet Mon 04-Feb-13 15:09:57

My DS2 is like this. Bright as a button, very musical, funny, great penmanship but a TOTAL inability to draw anything, from imagination or life.
His older brother and younger sister are actually quite good at it and both sides of the family have an artistic bent...I even scraped an O level in Art!
I am not sure what his issue is, the seeing or the transferring to paper.... He does get frustrated especially as his Yr3 teacher said the other day that he was much too old to be drawing stick men! He is literally at the one oval with a face on and arms and legs stuck out of it most two year olds...
I do think either you have it or you don't!

fuckadoodlepoopoo Mon 04-Feb-13 15:21:28

I think art is as important as sport or drama and to some children as important as maths, science or English, depending on what they are good at.

A child who is not academic but fantastic at art needs it more than ever because its an area where they can excel and may end up being where their future career lies. Was for me anyway. A lot of the people i went to art college with weren't academic. I've actually noticed over the years that the less academic they are the more successful they've been as artists, illustrators, graphic designers or fashion designers. Im not saying they are thick, its just its seems to be a different type of intelligence.

It doesn't matter if it doesn't come naturally they can still get a lot out of it.

weegiemum Mon 04-Feb-13 15:27:31

I think art is essential, but then my dd1 is exceptional at art. She's in s1 (y7) and the teacher is already talking about her options for accelerating her progress through the exam levels.

Partly it's just that she's talented and has lots of ideas as well. It's also that she was encouraged in an amazing way from p1. She's been at 2 primary schools, both of which were linked on to a secondary with shared staff, so she's always had art taught by an art teacher.

I'm a geography teacher, and diagram drawing/ field sketching is important in my subject too. I think there's a lot to be said for impressive art education. I wish I'd had it!!

jrrtolkien Mon 04-Feb-13 17:00:28

weegiemum: "I think art is essential, but then my dd1 is exceptional at art."

But that just means its essential for your daughter, not for all children irrespective of how weak they are at drawing.

fuckadoodlepoopoo Mon 04-Feb-13 18:44:41

I doubt anyone would class sports as a waste of time because their child isn't good at it, it still teaches coordination amongst other things. So i don't think art should be any different. Its not essential that they are good at it but i do think its important they do it anyway. No lessons should be abandoned just because the child isn't that great at it.

fuckadoodlepoopoo Mon 04-Feb-13 18:47:58

And art isn't just about drawing.

Have your boys tried any sort of sculpture? Print making? Photography? Typography? Etc. They may excel at one of them or at least just enjoy it more, and a background of art in school will give help develop the eye for it.

tethersend Mon 04-Feb-13 19:25:44

"Then I sat down with them and showed them how to look for shapes, consider perspective, use light strokes and then copy a drawing I did, stroke by stroke. Followed with loads of praise etc.

But a year on, we are still stuck. Yesterday I couldn't work out what DS2 had drawn... it was the partoing of the Red Sea for moses apparently.

The problem is they are just not interested"

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not sure I'd be interested in that grin

Ok, stop asking them to copy drawings. This will actually hamper their artistic development and encourage them to draw in a formulaic rather than analytical way- one of the things commonly taught at primary schools which is hard to undo- they begin to think that 'faces go like this' and 'feet go like this' etc.

Art can indeed be taught. Drawing can be taught. An interest in learning does help though.

To answer your original question, I really don't think drawing ability is essential for every child. However, I do think art plays an important part in encouraging children to question the world around them. There is a theory that art now serves the same function that philosophy has throughout history, and I agree with this.

Your children will lead full and happy lives never drawing anything- but they may still end up being great artists. If they want to.

SanityClause Mon 04-Feb-13 19:39:44

Can I just say, DD2 is dyslexic, and although she is bright, she has struggled at school. This was made particularly difficult for her, as she followed my very bright DD1 up the school. (Now at different schools - perfect!)

A new head started, and she walked into DD2's classroom, took down a picture she had done (after Matisse) off the wall, and showed it to the whole school in assembly. That was such a proud day for her. (I'm a bit teary, thinking about it, and it was about 4 years ago.)

Anyhoo, I think it doesn't hurt for people who are good at most things to find things they have to work at, and it's good for those that struggle to have strengths others might not have.

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