Are you homeschooling high school art? Your teen is aware of all the shiny electives available at the public school and doesn't want to miss out. It's understandable. You see their passion and want to give them all they need to succeed. I commend you!
But, do you know what they need? Possibly you have no experience or ability yourself, and lack confidence in your skills to teach them. Maybe you don't even know what they should be learning in high school art. You've probably bought them some how to draw books that use step by step directions to make copy cat drawings. Is your teen bored of copying someone else's art?
Your teen does not need step by step copy cat books or videos! While they can be fun and give a sense of success, teens are at the point in their lives where they need to express their individuality. Art is in essence expression of beauty and individuality and your teen should be able to own their art.
Am I telling you that your teen shouldn't be taught anything and just go it alone? Be creative and express themselves, is that enough? No, not that either. Without instruction they will lack the skills and the confidence to create on paper and canvas what they dream in their hearts and minds and will become discouraged.
So, in my humble opinion as a self trained artist, here is what your teen should learn in high school art:
- To see as an artist.
Artists see the world in artistic terms: line, shape, form, tone, texture and color rather than as symbols like tree, sky, ears and nose. Until a student learns to see the world through this lens he will struggle to draw realistically and become frustrated. I wrote a post about this here.
- To master the concept of value.
To create the illusion of depth in drawings students need to accurately represent where shadows and highlights fall on an object. To identify the shades and graduations of dark to light on an object and then transfer that information to the canvas.
- To plan compositions.
There are good, bad and amazing compositions. While artists can stumble upon good compositions intuitively and even accidentally, the amazing ones are generally carefully planned. Learning the principles of composition and the discipline of preparatory sketching will greatly reduce the frustration of poorly planned artworks.
- The technical aspects of art.
This includes color theory, point perspective principles, physical techniques for various mediums and artistic shortcuts such as using viewfinders, grids and transferring drawings. There are centuries of advances in art that can be quickly taught to students that they may not discover intuitively.
- The freedom to explore mediums and styles.
Pencils, colored pencils, watercolor, ink, acrylic paint, sculpture, collage... Still life, portrait, landscape, abstract, cartoon, manga... There are so many ways to express ourselves, but every artist has their favorites. How will your teen know what their favorites are without a fair chance to try them out? They don't need to try every medium and style, just enough that when they think later, "I'd like to try..." they won't feel intimidated wading into something new.
- To be challenged and to push themselves.
Like anything in life art can be done loosely with minimal effort or very, very purposefully with intense effort and concentration. Which kind of art will make your teen feel proud and satisfied? Which kind of attitude would you like to see seep into other areas of their life?
Teens are ready for a challenge they can step up to and if they are given the artistic freedom to complete each art project how they want to, then they will have the passion to work purposely and intensely until their final product shines. Then they will proudly hang their unique art on their bedroom wall!
- To assess and evaluate their own and others' art.
This includes art history. Preferably, a personal examination rather than passive education. To learn what others think of art is good, but it's even better if they decide for themselves what they think. This also includes giving and receiving of constructive criticism. It's very easy to be too critical on one side and too touchy on the other side, but there is a balance that allows artists to lift one another up.
Do you feel confident teaching art to your homeschool teens? Let me know what you think in the comments!
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