An important aspect of creating well-rounded artists is getting students to be comfortable talking about their art. This is something that can start at a very young age, as soon as a child is able to create. In our classes for our youngest children, we engage them in conversations about their art while they are creating it.
We comment about very specific things that we see. Some examples are:
· I love the colors you are using.
· I see that you are reaching all the up to the top of your painting.
· I like that you are filling your entire paper with colors.
· I notice that you are making a pattern.
· I see that you are making your collage symmetrical.
· I’m glad you remembered to color in the same direction.
· I like the new color you made. How did you make that shade of brown?
These are great ways of engaging about the kids’ art for a number of reasons. One is that they teach the children the language associated with what they are creating. For example, they may learn how to talk about patterns or color mixing. The second reason this is successful is that there are no judgments or “tough” questions.
- What did you make?
- What is it?
- That’s great!
These can be tough questions for young children because many times they don’t have a word for what they made. Then they feel bad that they can’t tell you what it is. Often their piece is abstract and they don’t know how to tell you that. They may have created a piece just because they were enjoying the process, and not concerning themselves with the product.
If it’s a representational piece and you ask what it is, the child may feel bad that you don’t recognize it. To them, it is obviously a car, but they can be hurt that you don’t see it too. And if you praise every piece of art a child makes with out giving them any reasons why, they won’t know “why” it is so great.
So what are good things to say when a child when he or she proudly shows you some artwork? Questions that relate to the process are always a good idea, as are open-ended questions such as:
- Tell me about what you made.
- How did you make this?
- What did you do first?
- How did you choose to use so much red?
- This looks like it took a long time/was fun to make
- Comment on compositional aspects of the artwork (I see lots of horizontal lines, circles, etc.)
Our students make a lot of art here at The Messy Artist, and we always enjoy talking to them about their process and the resulting pieces. Often while they are creating, we ask them if they want to give their picture a title. If they do, we write their exact words on their paper. This helps with early literacy since children will remember what they said. Then they can see the written words for what they said when they take their artwork home to their parents.
Do you have tips on talking to children about their artwork? We’d love to hear what works for you!