In her past blog posts, Embracing Spilled Paint and Embracing Spilled Paint, Part II, Melanie Rothschild champions the idea of welcoming mistakes in the art studio. Now she explores the purpose and importance of art education, and their potential threat to the creative expression and artistic freedom of your inner artist.
A guest post by Melanie Rothschild
One interesting thing about life is that you never know when out of nowhere something is going to happen which will imbed itself in your gut.
Several years ago I was doing an art show and a woman came over to me asking if I could recommend an art class for her young daughter. Apparently the girl was very excited about taking an art class outside of school but after giving it a try, things took an unexpected turn. The girl had done a painting with a pink frog about which she was quite proud, at least until the teacher explained to her that it was not acceptable.
The reasoning was straightforward: frogs are green, not pink. Therefore all would be well if the child would follow the teacher’s simple directions and change the coloration of her small, misguided reptile.
The young artist was devastated. She’d had a plan. She couldn’t understand why she wasn’t being allowed to follow through with her vision. She’d been looking forward to an art class, a place where she’d be able to “live out loud” as her inner artist self and this was not what she’d been expecting, not in the least.
The chilling part for me wasn’t really about this little girl; she was lucky to have a mother with clarity of thought to see the potential damage which lie ahead and take pains to redirect her child from this “spiritually toxic” situation. I just couldn’t stop thinking about all the kids with parents who would see fit to defer to such a teacher, or parents who would even admonish a child for this sort of irreverent behavior.
It made me think about why people send their kids to art classes, or why for that matter, any of us takes art classes.
Certainly there’s a lot to be learned: drawing, shading, perspective, cross-hatching, sculpting, carving, molding and endless more wonderful skills which can develop lifelong tools for artists. But right in the center of the artist’s essential tool kit is one tool, arguably the most essential of all which is easily forgotten in the dedication to attain perfection: becoming adept with the ecstasy of creating unruliness. . . and, understanding the profundity of that knack. It’s the sweet spot . . . the intersection of art, imagination, new ideas and progress. Possibly this kind of understanding is the most important reason for even doing art, at all. Maybe it’s even the reason that art exists.
From a parent’s point of view, isn’t art the place where you want your kid to be bold and take chances? When you consider all the other kinds of risky behaviors out there, I think the art class is a swell place for adventure.
I meet so many adults who talk about how much they wish they could do art but are rotten artists. Many of them say they actually have proof that they have no talent and often recount stories about some experience where they were told by a teacher or some authority figure that their work was not acceptable. Those feelings were internalized and poof . . . they’ve long ago bought into accepting someone else’s judgment and it has shut them down for years, maybe decades, or even forever. It all made me think . . . an art class can be a dangerous place.
Be sure to check out Rice’s Podcast with Melanie Rothschild about her so- called “mistakes.”
Melanie Rothschild is a self-taught artist whose elaborate interior accessories have been sold in stores throughout the United States including Neiman-Marcus, the shops at the Smithsonian Institution, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and hundreds of others for almost two decades. Her work is shown in fine art galleries and has been licensed to Target. She considers moxie, an irreverent nature, and a respect for mistake-making to be the tools of her trade. Melanie has a master’s degree in the Study of Creativity and an undergrad degree in Anthropology. She is from and lives in Los Angeles.
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