Friday 17th January 2020

The importance of Art in education

It was apparent to me throughout my secondary state school education that my time in art lessons was very limited. Whilst studying my Illustration/Animation degree, I developed an increasing awareness and frustration towards a government that doesn’t offer time and space to educating art in state school curriculum, as I began to discover the integral role that art plays within society. 

A truly exploratory and creative art education allows children to obtain their naturally imaginative and creative way of thinking, rather than being “taught out of their creative capacities” as Sir Ken Robinson explains it. Art has been used throughout time to comment on society, and provokes progressive thought. Without visual art being introduced to children as a method of thinking through making, how can we as a society, continue to progress socially through creatively challenging every day norms? 

Visual art offers a space to explore, question, and to view a topical area from many perspectives. Without enforced education of art, where children are given time and space to explore their thoughts, imagination and creativity through visuals, where does that leave them and our society in years to come?

 

From 2010-2015 the arts funding council of England was cut by 35% and government spending on creative arts was cut by 40%. According to the cultural learning alliance (2016) there was a 20% decline in students taking arts GCSEs between 2010 and 2016. As well a 10% decline in hours given to art lessons and 11% decline in arts teachers at schools. The underfunding of schools, and particularly their Art departments, leaves students lacking in subjects that fuel their creativity. Emily Gopaul, an educational professional, writes in her article for the guardian, that even teachers who do not consider themselves artistic, believe that children are “missing out on a vital part of education” by excluding art as a subject. 

The current focus on students completing an Ebacc, which excludes art subjects in alarming. In the 2017 Conservative party’s manifesto, they stated that they aimed for 90% of GCSE students to be studying the EBacc scheme by 2025. Alice Thompson writes the Ebacc system “forces children to do identical GCSEs” leaving no space for “difference or originality” so the prospect of 90% of GCSE students taking the Ebacc option is far from prosperous . She notes in her article that the number of students taking art and design has “plummeted” due to the EBacc scheme.

There is a huge contradiction between the reality of future prospects for school children and their current education; Thompson notes “Britain is the global leader in the arts world after the United States. The Creative Industries are worth £92 billion to this country, more than the oil, gas, life sciences, automotive and aeronautics industries combined”.

Without the space and time given to visual arts, students are unable to recognise the vastness of the industry. Visual imagery is a vital form of communication, it forms its own language that we read every day. It is a form of expression, communication and protest, and helps form original ideas and provokes creativity. 

Visual art takes many forms, however it’s main purpose is to communicate, whether that be an emotion, an idea, a criticism, a joke. And in many cases a visual communication is more impactful and communicates an idea more widely and faster than words. For that very reason, visuals are used in propaganda for example, as they deliver a message hard and fast. And it is for this very reason, to counteract common misconceptions, bigotry or generalisations that we are passively exposed to each day, that creating and expressing through visual art is so vital. A break in the stream of every day advertising and the press, a breath of fresh air. Take Green Peace’s recent animation in collaboration with Aardman, this animation is a beautiful example of how art has been paired with science to assist an important and existential message. 

 

There is a misunderstanding in a child’s education, in how art can be applied to other aspects in their life. Graham- Martin Brown, explains how our current education system is 150 years old, designed for the Industrial revolution. Why would our government want to replicate a system that is designed to produce “compliant factory workers”, when we live in an era where major technological advances happen frequently, and replace jobs such as these ? 

G.S Hall (an American psychologist and educator) says that a child’s natural disinterest in accuracy is “very best evidence that they should not be forced in drills of accuracy”, an idea that he views as not celebrating “the qualities of the child’s artistic efforts”, meaning a child doesn’t necessarily need to use or understand accuracy in order for their art to be appreciated.

These two drills of accuracy that are often placed on learning students. The expectation to draw using linear perspective is known as the “the visionary schema” and the expectation to represent 3d objects on paper as 2D, is known as “the perceptual schema”. The Visionary Schema being the idea that perspectival art has been made the most natural way of representation for children and is an “early sign of corruption” and what Allan Costall (child psychologist) believes to be the “corruption of the innocent eye”. These schemas replicate Thomson’s ideas around our current education system producing “identikit mini robots”. Students are always led to believe that performing a task in “exactly right format” is their pathway to success. 

An Education in a Post-modern World (2006) written by Tom Hardy, includes a manifesto of proposed methods to better a students’ art education experience, for example it proposes experimental and interactive activities “where the results and procedures are impossible to predict” and where the outcomes of tasks are unknown to both students and teachers. 

A key point when teaching art seems to be that since art is so subjective, it would be impossible for the child and more importantly their teacher to know what is right or wrong, i.e there is no correct answer in art. What makes teaching different when it comes to creative subjects is that there is a certain incompleteness, where no single piece of work could ever possibly be finished, there is always something that could be added or changed. As well as this, the importance of knowing what children already know when teaching is crucial to building on their knowledge, as Francoise Barbe-Gall puts it, not “judge their knowledge in academic terms” but encourage them to build on what they originally perceive. In doing so, the teacher learns from the student while “ideas that would not have occurred to us (teachers) will emerge”, it is also important to do so, so that the child doesn’t become frightened of giving an incorrect answer. It enables the child to come up with their own ideas, before knowing their teachers, and to be brave enough to follow their ideas without first knowing whether it is right or wrong, “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original” (Sir Ken Robinson). 

And so, through the creating and teaching of creative art, there is a learning experience that can be difficult to replicate in other subjects. One that is completely unique, yet an incredibly important learning process. The process of playing, creating and questioning. Constantly asking what if? Throughout the process of making. And this way of learning can be and should be applied accross all school subjects, however isn’t appreciated in the current system, that aims to get students through exams, rather than having a truly impressionable educational experience. 

                   Sunday 8th December 2019

   Unwrapping Christmas

Trying to live a less wasteful life style has become a more conscious part of our lives. The importance of being a conscious consumer, and the ways to lower your plastic and waste footprint has become more prevalent each day.

With Christmas just around the corner, where consumers create the most amount of waste per person in the year, it is a perfect time to put into practice a more considered way of consuming. 

Brits get through 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year, and the majority of this can't be recycled! Most wrapping papers are lined with plastics or other decorative non-recyclable materials, which not only means wrapping paper is single use, but also contributes to our plastic pollution crisis. In a time where our only option is to conserve and recycle, we have to find more creative (and fun) ways for wrapping presents this Christmas. 

Welcome to the world of print making! This Christmas I will be using some old paper/newspaper, rubbers, ink pads and a scalpel to make my wrapping paper. And here's how...

I bought all of my materials from my local art shop, but you can easily find ink pads, rubbers and scalpels in a WHSmith or CassArt.

The first step is to make some rubber stamps. The easiest way to do this, is by carving into the rubber with a scalpel. The design doesn't need to be intricate in order to be effective, as a simple way to create patterned wrapping paper is to repetitively stamp your rubber across the paper until the paper is covered. Press your rubber design face down onto the ink pad, and print directly onto the paper.

For larger presents that need to be wrapped, repetitively stamping a small rubber across a large newspaper may be a little tedious. The best thing for this, is using Lino Printing materials, the method is the same but on a larger scale! 

The layering of stamps creates a more interesting pattern, and even just using different sides of the rubber or using rubbers in different shapes to create a pattern is effective if you don't feel confident enough to carve in a design, or are printing with children! 

This process is a really easy and simple way of  creating your own recycled/recyclable, patterned wrapping paper. 

What's really important to note, is that you must use this ink stamping/printing method in order to recycle the paper. Blotting the paper using wet materials makes the paper non-recyclable as it is difficult to remove the ink/paint from the paper's fibres in the cleaning process.