August 13, 2016

Product vs Process Art

I always get excited when I discover there's actually a term or title for something that I'm passionate about. This article is all about the ways in which kids create art.

As was the same with the term "Wabi Sabi", for which I didn't even know there was a term for; the same rings true for my feelings about my newly acquired phrases "product art" and "process art".
Free painting time

I somehow stumbled across an article which talks about product art vs process art. The thing that I found comforting about this article was realising I'm not alone in my out-of-the-box thinking and there are other people out there that think like me. Always nice :)

I was excited when I came across this idea as it exactly outlays the thoughts I've been having trying to define how I want my kids to learn and practise art. I've naturally shied away from giving them rules for creating and 'how to draw' books, and am happier when I see them enjoy the moment and the process of creating art, and seeing their individual creations come to fruition.
A plate, paints and brushes. No other instructions!

So, let me explain. 

Process art. You sit your kids down, and for example you show them some pictures of sunsets. Give them some paper and paints and tell them to paint their own sunset. Each kid paints an entirely different picture, very individual, and you can look at each one and find something special and unique. One could paint it with big sloppy blobs, another could paint it more precise and carefully. The kids really get into the process. They are involved, enjoying mixing and applying paint, and being present in the moment. They are using creative thinking and exploring and constantly making decisions, and each kids' artwork looks different and unique.

Product art would be to show them exactly what they're going to create, give them all the same shapes and pieces and tell them exactly where to place them and glue it all together. Much like doing a puzzle where the pieces have a defined space and there is no creative thinking regarding what piece would go where, for whatever reason. All kids projects come out looking good and effective, yet there is hardly any difference between each individuals piece. Think 'how-to-draw' pictures, paint by numbers, colouring in pages with numbered spaces, crafty projects with step by step instructions. Even some painting/ art projects can be structured out in this way.
This project had steps involved, but there was freedom of expression within each step.

I think there's value in both ways of creating, but I do have a natural instinct within me that steers me towards getting them to make their own decisions during the process. If a child asks me for help during creating their artwork, I always give examples only and steer away from using words like "should" or "wrong". I always tell them "this is how I do it, but it's your artwork- it's up to you". Kids always come up with new ways of doing things when they are given the freedom.
We always find time to create. Sometimes you can't even stop to eat!

I recently created a poster with Miss 7's class mates. We already had a set topic of creating a poster for 'Snowfest', which is coming up soon in our local town. The teacher & I decided to create a wintery snow scene on dark paper. I knew I wanted snow in it, with characters in the snow, and snow flakes in the sky. My daughter and I showed each child how to make a snow flake and I told them to draw themselves, cut themselves out, and glue their character into the scene. We had kids drawing santa, animals and snowmen instead! A couple drew igloos. If I had've been stricter with my 'rules', we wouldn't have had these wonderful additions. I didn't tell them how the characters needed to be drawn, only gave them a piece of paper and let them figure it out themselves. (I had to keep a few 'rules' in there to make sure there was space for everyone to contribute!)
Our finished 'Snowfest' poster

Another article I enjoyed about this topic was this one. Even though the above poster was created with an end product in mind, I was still mindful of letting the kids do their own thing. That article has a good explanation of creating a 'product' whilst also keeping the 'process' in mind.

I think when kids create this way we get happy surprises and the kids can feel more connected to, and proud of their work. Of course, there are necessary skills to be learned with each way of creating, but I think creative thinking is an important skill and it's place in our kids eduction needs to be protected.  There's already so much pressure on the young ones to perform and meet expectations, I would like to see this freedom of expression nurtured and encouraged.

And I'm a happy Mama watching them get messy and experiment!  And maybe a little too lazy for rules anyway!
Happy mess-making.

Jules :)

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