Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Monday 10.17.11

Creativity ... Can it be taught?

Each summer, I take time out to re-think what I do in my classroom. I feel it is my job not only to teach the Elements and Principals that make up Art, Art History, critical thinking, and cross curricular connections, but also to inspire creativity.

Creativity ... Can it be taught?????????? Think about it.

The answer is ... certainly it can, and where is there a more apt place than in an artroom. Creativity is the ACT of taking what we know and applying it to an idea or to the solution of a problem in a new way.

Students often think that because someone can copy a work of art or a photograph that they didnʼt think THAT student was a good Artist. I point out that there is great value and much to be learned from copying someone elseʼs work, but that was someone elseʼs idea or solution and the person copying simply demonstrated a good command of the medium. For example, if you look at Georgia OʼKeefeʼs work (most everyone has seen her flowers) and you look at the size and detail of the flowers she painted, you realize that she took a commonly painted subject and painted it from a totally different perspective. My creative follow up to this discussion would be to assign my students to select an organic or non-organic subject that is commonly seen everyday and illustrate it in part or whole in such a manner that it gets oneʼs complete attention as Georgia Okeefeʼs flowers do.

Teaching color, line, value, form, shape, and the rest of the elements and principals are import aspects of art, but teaching creativity is essential to art.

Not long ago, I started a blog at my school site for my studentʼs parents to dispel preconceived conceptions of what many people believe Art is and give them a little better understanding of what goes on in an Art classroom. There is a common thought that only things that are beautiful are Art; something you might hang on the wall in your home or place on a coffee table. Yes, that may be Art, but there is much, much more. Some art is really not beautiful at all. In fact , it is completely the opposite. Beauty was not the artistʼs point. The artist may have been trying to grab your attention and get you to think about or realize something you may have never thought about before. Or, he/she might be simply trying to get you to look at something you see everyday in a new way.

-Susan Manbeian

Thursday 10. 6.11

The Creative Process...

"To create" simply means to bring something into being. To be creative, means to come up with something new and original and not necessarily from a logical thought process but more of a melding of many concepts. “Something resulting from originality of thought, expression and imagination. The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships and the like and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations. (Random House Dictionary)

My question is: Where in our “test driven” education today are we encouraging students to creatively flourish?

I think that we all can agree that we owe the quality of our lives to creative individuals throughout history. Where would be without automobiles, airplanes, and electricity?

Once a student has caught on to a basic art concept, they are often asked to explore that concept and to discover what other new ideas or theme variations they can come up with. Students are asked to first look closely at the world, then reexamine different aspects of that world, while gaining an understanding of what they are observing. Finally, they are asked to step back and find a different point of view from the origin alone presented. Creativity happens when students are allowed to experiment, manipulate, and explore while reserving judgement.

This creative process taught in art classes applies to not only art, but to all disciplines. Art education that enhances the creative process proves the importance of not only understanding the world that we live in, but creating solutions for that future world.

The following art assignment is an exercise in the creative process using line, texture, shape and color.

Example A: Lesson on Line

DSCN0504Student work by Joy Gu, 13, from Hopkins Junior High, Fremont, CA

The first lesson is on the element of  line. Students are given a sheet of paper and asked to put random dots on the page. Next they are to connect the dots by using all aspects of line that we have talked about in class. (vertical, horizontal, diagonal, implied, zigzag, wavy, thin, and thick).

Example B: Lesson on Texture


In the second lesson, students are asked to fill in the shapes created in the line drawing with texture.

Example C: Students are given the task to create a new type of transportation from the shapes they found with in their line and texture drawings.

In the third lesson, students are given the task to find shapes and textures within their two drawings and come up with a  mode of transportation. In each example, students are given guide lines to follow and the out come is left to each individual's creativity.  

Please share your thoughts on how you are encouraging your students to creatively flourish.

-Susan Manbeian