This year for the Final Exam for my Design students they are required to bring their art portfolio home and show it to a parent/ guardian and engage in a meaningful conversation about the art that was created throughout the course.
The objective of this part of the exam is so that artwork does make it home AND is enjoyed by the students and their family AND to develop and continue conversations about the art making process at home! It might even inspire some summer art making as well!
Here is a helpful article for engaging in meaningful conversations about your child's art:
" 10 Questions to Ask Your Child About their Art" Kidspot.com
It’s easy to throw a “nice picture” comment at our children when they proudly show us their latest picture, but it’s much more helpful to ask considered, open questions that encourage them to open up and explore their own thinking. Art is about so much more than the end result we see on the page. It’s about feelings, interpretations, thought-processes and our responses to what we see in the world around us.
That’s why questions are so much nicer than comments, because sometimes comments can be misconstrued and end up stifling creativity. When we say, “I love how you’ve used that pink for the sky”, our child might think, ‘I should always use that exact pink for the sky because it’s the right one to use’. Instead, to keep their minds blooming and creating, try asking one or two of these questions.
1. How did you come up with the idea for your picture? This encourages your child to examine the inspiration behind their artwork and make the connection between what they are feeling and what they are creating. It’s also an excellent question for finding out what’s top of mind for your child right now.
2. What can you tell me about your picture? This is a lovely open-ended question and a good one to have up your sleeve if you are not sure what the picture is about. It’s never a great feeling to congratulate your child on their drawing of a beautiful cow only to discover it’s a self portrait.
3. Why did you…… use this colour? Put a tree there? Add a swirl here? Find key elements of the design to ask a specific question about. This shows your child that details are noticed and they matter. Keep your tone neutral but enthusiastic when asking specific questions as it’s very easy to sound judgmental and that’s the last thing we want.
4. What materials did you use to make this? Kids love to talk about their things and will happily tell you for hours how they used the orange crayon but on the side, not on the top, etc. Aside from hearing their gorgeous enthusiasm for their project, this question is a good one to get them thinking about how they use the materials they are given and encourages them to experiment. By all means, guide your child by asking additional questions like, “What do you think would happen if we used the bottom of the crayon?” or “Do you want to try making some lines using three crayons at once?”
5. What part of the picture do you enjoy the most? This question teaches your child to value their own opinion as well as those of others. In addition, it helps your child see the value in being self-critical but in a positive way. We are looking for the best bits, not the bits that didn’t work. Follow up questions would include: “Why do you like that part of the picture?” and “What do you think makes that work so well?”.
6. What part of the picture turned out just the way you had planned? Sometimes the parts we “like” or “enjoy” the most are actually not the parts that worked out the way we had planned. Kids often plan for things to go quite haywire and this is an important thing to acknowledge. Creativity is not necessarily found in the things that ‘look the best’ and it’s the creative process that we want to encourage, not the outcome.
7. How hard was it to create this picture? There is no doubt about it, creativity is hard work and acknowledging the effort that our children put into their art is very valuable to them. This is also a nice way to champion working diligently towards good outcomes (and we’ll get that message in wherever we can, right?).
8. Would you change anything about your artwork? This is a great way to remind your children that their ‘best’ isn’t necessarily achieved straightaway. Most things in life require a few drafts to reach their potential and art is no different. If your child suggests some tweaks or revisions, urge them to redo their artwork with their revisions in place. Or suggest they try the same picture but in a different way – new media, different perspective or even just new colours. Getting into the habit of revising and improving our work is a very good habit indeed.
9. What do you think you should call this picture? Naming something always makes it more personal and meaningful. A title will also prompt your child to think deeply about the main elements or themes in the artwork. A title often adds an extra dimension to an artists’ work; seek out examples of this to share with your child.
10. What should we do next with this piece? Have options available for your child to display, keep or discard their artwork. A simple string line in the study or kitchen is a nice place to display extra-special artworks (have a ‘one in, one out’ policy). They may also like to have a ring-binder to clip and keep their own artwork in their bedroom. Alternatively, they may decide that today’s work was fun for the day and the artwork can be recycled to free up some space for next time.
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Christina Chang teaches art and design to students in grades 9-12.
Burlington Public Schools