I've been thinking about how and why we learn to draw for a few years now. I started self-analazing my own drawing and character design thought process when I began writing my first art instruction book, "Creating Characters with Personality". It was harder than I thought to verbalize how I've learned and how I process drawing. This has led me to start looking back at my artistic life and how I learned art. What made me learn the most? What drove me to draw and stick with it? What led to others I knew as a child to stop drawing? I think I'm ready to present some of those thoughts here on DA and hear what you think. This is part 2 of three in a series. I'm not sure where this is leading, but step one is my establishing an online art instruction school called Taught ByA PRO (taughtbyapro.com) that will (in phase one) concentrate on drawing instruction for all forms of media. Here we go:
I believe there are THREE major problems in the way we learn art instruction in the United States. PROBLEM #1: Well-meaning adults kill a children's joy for drawing (can be read here: tombancroft.deviantart.com/jou… )
PROBLEM #2: Artists are not training artists
When I was growing up, I devoured any art instruction book that I could get. In the years between elementary school and the end of high school, art instruction books were the core element of my artistic education. This is because the public school art classes were not feeding me artistically. Because of governmental mandates, public school art instruction must introduce children to every form of art to make them “well-rounded” in their art appreciation. A student must learn about every style of art- and try it once- from abstract painting, to silk screen printing, to Old Masters painting, to Japanese wood block printing, to painting with sponges -and so much more- that drawing fundamentals are barely touched upon. According to the school board system of art instruction, it is up to the student to learn to draw; the schools are just there to introduce you to the wide world called “Art”. I believe this is fine when children are young, but when they get to be later elementary or middle school age, a more structured drawing and painting curriculum is needed for those still interested in art. By high school, many of the kids that liked to draw have stopped. As a pre-teen, most of the kids that would even consider taking an art class are more serious about art as a career. This is when art instruction should move into fundamental drawing principles and not mere rendering techniques.
But that art instruction doesn’t come. Only the children that learn and practice on their own, grow as artists. Our schools don’t progress beyond teaching broad-stroke basics and techniques. Actual drawing instruction is left for the individual to pursue. And when the few students that enjoy art and have pushed through the (lack of) education programs through high school leave to go onto an ART SCHOOL? The better art schools ask to see a portfolio right off the bat, just to be accepted to the school. Our high schools are training people to be ready for college, but not for art school. Now the lack of training is being pushed over the art schools. Yes, you should expect for an art school to teach you art instruction. That's what you are there for, right? BUT, they are having to back up to such fundamental artistic training that either 1) the students that are self-taught, understand the basics and have real skill- are bored or 2) the lessons are too complex for those that only have basic high school training and those students are lost.
At the core of this problem is this fact: artists are not involved enough in the training and curriculum of young artists. Especially missing in the equation are talented, EXPERIENCED artists. Many art teachers in public schools have a degree in art but little if any actual experience creating art professionally. Public school art teachers become facilitators rather than art instructors. I believe many of them are just not artistically prepared or knowledgeable enough to challenge the children they teach and fall into lessons pre-prepared by school board committees. Through the years, I have asked my kids art teachers what kind of art they create personally and have not found one that created art outside of the classroom (or within). By the time kids become college-aged, this problem lessons a bit- but only if they attend a very expensive art institute. This is the best place to find experienced artists that are teaching good, fundamental art instruction. Still, even if students DO find those good teachers at these expensive art institutions, they are discovering basic drawing principles MUCH TOO LATE. By this point in their lives they should be building upon already established fundamentals in order to be able to get that rare, paying art job upon graduation. I believe this is why we have such a glut of unemployed art school graduates. Anyone that has seen some of the portfolios coming out of our nation’s art schools will tell you there is a problem in our art school training! As I mentioned already, I believe that problem is less in the colleges or art institutes but in our nationally funded elementary to high schools.