Sam brought home his summer camp sketch book today. It’s full of awesomely great drawings, and if you took the book at face value you might think that he had the best summer ever.
But it turns out that he didn’t. I hate writing this, but he actually fought with the teacher about making the daily sketches. Usually he loves drawing, so this was shocking. It turns out that he doesn’t like being told what to do, which isn’t shocking at all. He’ll draw, but only when he wants to. And please don’t tell him what he can or can’t draw, thank you very much.
Part of me wants to help him learn to be more…compliant. Because in real life, sometimes we just need to follow directions. Or do we? Sure, we need to stop at red lights and pay for our groceries and be kind to others, but do we need to draw when someone else tells us to? And do we need to draw in a way that matches another person’s definition of art?
I’m right back in my high school art class. The teacher gave us a lot of ridiculous assignments, like cutting out tiny pieces of magazines to make mosaics and making drawings that were copies of photographs. At age fifteen, I was pretty convinced that it wasn’t ‘real’ art and that it wasn’t remotely creative (and I still think that). But I was compliant; I did the work and earned the A.
I suppose I was building some baseline artistic skills, but the class left me uninspired and bored. And maybe a little stubborn and rebellious. I remember a classmate admiring something I’d drawn (a copy of a photograph) and then saying something like, “Hey you’re pretty good at art, can you draw me a horse?” And in that moment, I decided that I would never, ever draw a realistic horse if I could help it, because it represented such a narrow, small-town definition of art.
So I can relate to Sam’s resistance to being told when and how to draw, and he knows it. The kiddo feeds my rebellious teenage artist by telling me that he thinks I should become “an abstract art teacher.” He thinks I’d be good at that, because I’d let kids draw and paint exactly how they want to, all the time.
What do you think – could I open an art studio/teaching space that specializes in just abstract art? Would people bring their kids (or themselves) to art classes that didn’t have some hint of realism as an end product?