For a few months of each year I am Mr. Billy. Currently I am Mr. Billy in Jamestown, North Dakota on my 7th artist-in-residency here. I teach art to Kindergarten through 6th grade in all 6 elementary schools. I also teach the arts after school program for kids in 3rd through 5th grade (i also teach adult classes and an elderly mural painting class, but that is slightly off topic). My blog post today is about the kids.
When I am standing in front of a room full of students eager to learn about art there is the teacher side of me and the artist side of me. The teacher side of me is trying to be informative, positive, a good communicator, and entertaining. My goal as a teacher is to present the students with a brand new skill or a brand new idea about what art can mean to them in their lives. The artist side of me is digging for gold, because young children have this brilliant freedom that comes from inexperience and bravery. The younger the student the smaller the skill set, but amazingly it seems to be creativity that is the necessity to solve even a very basic drawing or project. The looseness of the lines and the simplicity of the communication...."this is a pig, because a pig is pink and has a nose like this". I have classroom moments where I want to stop the class and take a students drawing and dissect it line by line to understand all the great things that are happening. I want to ask the student 50 questions about why they made certain decisions and give them a stack of new paper to see if the student can replicate such brilliance. But the classroom is still a classroom, I cannot shine a light on one student and ignore the rest, and there is not time for such sidetracks in my 55 minute lessons.
Thankfully for me, the result of this influence of children's art each week day motivates me to put down some of these images and ideas onto paper myself. I try to attack the paper with the same reckless abandon and fearless excitement that the grade school students have. While, I have a lot of work to do to fully let go, I do enjoy the energy and the raw quality of the work. The two drawings on display here are my attempt to be a child on paper again.
Insert overused but relevant Picasso quote here:
"Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."