What is process based art?

It really doesn’t matter what their painting or drawing looks like at the end of the day. This is homeschool art! The goal is not to follow directions to end up with art that looks just like the example.

The goal is creative exploration. Mastery and memorization will come with time, but keeping that spark of curiosity alive is job #1. Without a desire to know more, learning will become a dreaded task to complete rather than the joyful discovery it can and should be.

Exploring art history with kids is a lot like a Jackson Pollock painting. Jackson Pollock decided that he would rather paint his internal feelings than a representational image. He used large oversized rolls of canvas from boating and hardware stores, and laid the canvas on the ground. He moved around all 4 sides of the canvas dripping and splattering paint on his canvas.

Is this art?

At the time, some people thought it wasn’t. But more people admired the bold new direction Pollock was taking his art.

What the actual painting looked like was secondary to the act of creating it. This is the definition of process based art.

When children create art, they aren’t just coloring or drawing or painting. They are having an internal dialogue, thinking through choices, and making decisions. They are learning cause and effect, improving their fine motor skills, and developing their sensory awareness of color, shape, texture, composition… the list goes on and on. They are looking within and beginning on a life-long road of self discovery and awareness. They are exploring their feelings.

This is why I prefer open-ended, process based art activities to step-by-step tutorials.

When you give a child a jumping off point for their art, they can take it in any direction they choose. This means they must choose. Offering them a choice helps them to direct their own education and to curate an experience that will leave them feeling rewarded and fulfilled.

If they are interested in creative exploration, that’s all they need. If they are interested in learning a skill, they will. Anyone can learn to draw. Formal art lessons help to speed up the process, but they aren't necessary. Leonardo da Vinci was banned from attending school because he was an illegitimate child. He learned to draw anyway, and better than anyone ever had before him! All he needed was the desire, the ability to observe carefully, and lots of practice.

Process based art is easy to talk about in theory, and many kids are happy to create art this way with no expectations of what the outcome will be. It's not always easy for every kid, though. Kids who have perfectionist tendencies may have trouble with this concept at first, because the finished art needs to measure up to a certain standard in their mind, or else the project was a failure. The good news is this – with time and an ongoing dialogue about how the act of creating art is more important than the end result, art can be a great tool to help perfectionist kids see things from a new perspective, and appreciate being in the moment without any expectations.

The product (or finished art) they end up with is a source of pride for kids, a really fun reminder of the time they spent creating, and a treasure to hang on the fridge or maybe even frame. But, the process is the most valuable part of creating art.


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