A Year 6 boy came up to me a couple of hours before my first art class with him.
"We are doing art next. I don’t like art. I get really nervous. I really don’t like art! There are too many decisions to make. Will we have choice?"
I responded, “Well, yes, you will.”
“I can’t do it, that’s worse, you have to decided what goes where and make too many decisions. I can’t do it!"
I responded, “Well this is going to be a little different: the whole point is that we are not going to plan what we paint. You can even close your eyes!”
With a bemused expression on his face, he said, “Oh!”
The class began with me sitting on the floor with the children, surrounded by original artworks & prints by Dr. John Diamond, and prints by Jackson Pollock.
I asked if they recognized the image of Blue Poles, as it hangs in the National Gallery of Australia, and has a strong political & economic story relevant to locals. A few recognized the painting but knew very little about the man who really revolutionized art. Pollock freed the artist from representational painting, even pattern, shape, and form. He dripped paint freely across a canvas, which was often laid on the floor, I imagine, as though he were dancing.
I then showed the class Diamond’s art, and explained that being a doctor he approaches art in a very different way, but like Pollock paints freely, and believes the benefits of such an approach are important to pass onto others. I asked the class what similarities they saw between these two artists, Pollock a man who inspired a modern perspective and Diamond a man who offers an entirely innovative approach accessible to everyone, regardless of training. The children noticed that neither Pollock or Diamond painted a subject, instead they seemed to use free brush and drip movements across the paper or canvas, yet Diamond’s paintings had more empty space.
I encouraged the children to notice what movements Diamond makes in his art, and most importantly what mood the paintings generated, not the specific emotion, but what overall mood. The children noticed that all the movements seemed to be rounded, flowing, and had a soothing, yet dynamic, quality.
The children painted individual paintings, and then came together to create group paintings. Knowing Diamond was a doctor, they began to 'diagnose' how each other were feeling through the brushstrokes they made. One student admitted that she was feeling quite angry, and they all decided to use the painting as 'treatment' to help her feel better!
The boy, who had come up to me before the class, came up to me at the end, and simply said, "I love this art! I really love this art!"