Art and Storytelling

I love to read to my students, and tell them stories.  But I think one of my favorite aspects of working with students is the stories they tell as they draw and paint, and engage with materials.  Stories just happen spontaneously and with each new detail that’s added to the art, the story is elaborated on.  Some are crazy and wild stories that inspire the artist to add more details to the art and more outrageous events to the story.  Giggles generally ensue or another child chimes in with a “What about this?” or a suggestion for something else that could be added to the art and the story. Some  stories are narratives of the artistic process, and some stories are shared as a result of a question. Children/people have many ways to express themselves besides verbal language. The Reggio Emilia Educators in Italy have written a book called The Hundred Languages of Children which elaborates upon some of the many ways that children can communicate their learning and ideas.  Art materials are used by artists to express ideas and stories. Stories are important to the art process for a variety of reasons.  Stories are an expression of the artists experience of the world, or are a  way to process a concern or fear. Stories can be a way to express the joy of living in the moment while creating.  Stories can provide a record of growth when collected over time.

Recently I had a group of students create a collaborative drawing in pairs.  First one would draw and then the other would respond with a detail.  The resulting art was energetic, silly, lively, and fun. The stories students dictated had unusual elements combined together which made them more interesting and surprising. It made me want to throw a bunch of ideas into a hat, mix them up, and then start pulling ideas out just to see what unusual combinations could do to the artistic response and stories of the student artists, or for my own growth as an artist.  There is nothing quite like juxtaposing seemingly unrelated ideas or objects for getting one to experience and envision the world from a new perspective!

This past summer I read a wonderful book by Brent and Marjorie Wilson called Drawing with Children.  The book describes with great detail the general stages of drawing, contains numerous  children’s drawings, and suggests some ideas for drawing with children that expand their drawing vocabularies and develop their imaginations. It’s not a book that shares how to teach shading or perspective, but suggests ways that a love of drawing can be nurtured in children of any age no matter whether they are scribbling or drawing at a sophisticated level, and can encourage artists to discover their own personal style and develop their own personal interests.  Since December I have been trying some of the drawing activities suggested in the book with my students. The book put into words things I have discovered in my own growth as an artist and seems very intuitive.  The kinds of activities suggested are similar to things I’ve done as a child and suggested as an art instructor.  And of course it’s just terrific that Brent and Marjorie Wilson went   to the trouble to share their stories of working with students, and put it all together and share it in an organized and creative way!  Many of the recent drawings on my Franciful Arts Facebook page were created after using ideas from Drawing with Children.  And of course using these ideas has led to my own twists and aha moments for ways to change or elaborate on the ideas to support students’ growth and development as artists.

I hope you will treasure your student’s art stories  whether you just sit back and listen or record them!


About francifularts

I am an independent art educator. I had my first experience teaching ceramics when I was 24 and worked in the University for Youth program at the University of Denver. As an elementary school teacher I always found myself integrating the arts across the curriculum, which led to me working as an artist in the schools. In May of 2008 I began a master's program with Lesley University in their Creative Arts in Learning Program. It was a truly transformative and incredible experience which led me to decide to devote the rest of my teaching career to teaching art, and through the arts. About the same time that I completed my master's degree in January of 2011 I was hired to teach art in two different programs. I have never been happier in my work as a teacher, and I really appreciate the wonderful professors and cohort of fellow teachers I studied with at Lesley University. I also want to thank all of the wonderful arts educators that I have met online through the TAB/choice list serv for their thoughtful posts and insightful suggestions for teaching art!
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