Draw With Me

7 Steps to Teaching Your Children:

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The best way to teach your children art is to try it yourself! Give yourself a little time and freedom to play with what interests you. The most skilled artists in the world started by smudging, stroking and marking in ways that intrigued them! Give your children the gift of your own example. This teaching method is also known as discipleship, and it is absolutely the best model of education known to man.

Step 1: Recognize that creativity is a trait that you and your children possess because you are made in the image of God. The only real obstacle between you and artistic genius is a little exercise! 

Step 2: Remember that the best teachers are really just good learners, who include others in what they are learning. If your child isn't interested in drawing, try drawing something yourself and practice narrating aloud to him what you are thinking as you go. Are you having fun? If you can learn to have fun making art, I guarantee you your children will too. 

Step 3: Simplify. Overload is the enemy of creativity. If your current method is overwhelming you, cut yourself some slack. 

Step 4: Get inspired! Collect books with compelling illustrations. Go to an exhibit. Listen to music. Buy a set of pastels just because they look like fun. Surround your children with things that inspire them to make and enjoy good art. 

Step 5: Look harder. The first step to creating something beautiful is learning to see deeply. Help your children notice the beauty that is all around them by pointing it out and describing it. Take the time to notice the beauty that attracts them too. Every time you sit down to draw, try to spend more time looking than drawing. 

Step 6: Make rules. There can be no real creativity without constraint. Do not be fooled into thinking that by giving your child restrictions you are squelching him. Make things more interesting by creating a problem to solve! Draw the pine cone with only lines today and only dots tomorrow. Children grow when we help them focus by removing the distractions. A child who has learned to color in the lines today will be more responsible with his creative liberties tomorrow. Just don't forget to notice when he wants to build a toothpick model of the pine cone and encourage that too. 

Step 7: Keep it positive! Praise your child's efforts whatever they may be. Help them find the beauty in their work and use your praise as a subtle way to encourage progress in the right direction.


For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  - Ephesians 2:10

Art & Craft

“Hobby Lobby,” the man repeated with disgust. “Hobby Lobby is for people who do crafts.” That last word came out as though it tasted repulsive, and the look on his face was one of disdain. The man was an artist, a painter and a college professor, urging his students to buy their supplies at a “real” art store. He spoke with zeal because the store in reference was an offense to the very definition of art as he knew it. To him, and to many academics these days,there is an ever widening chasm between the arts and the crafts. Artists are original, innovative, and experimental. An artist needs to have something to say and preferably something that challenges the status quo. But somewhere in our search for the next shocking idea, we have lost our respect for the beauty of craft. We have instead developed a disdain for it.


What is a craft? 

There are a few possible definitions. In
Hobby Lobby terms, it may be mass-
produced merchandise marketed to the
“artsy-fartsy” bunch who desire to make
something that is cute and convenient. If
this is it, then perhaps crafts are an
offense to creativity that is marked by
courageous exploration.

In Ancient Egypt, a craft was a unique and
valuable skill set inspired by the gods.
Artisans who honed their abilities as sculptors, painters, stonecutters, carpenters
and metal smiths were revered and respected as a special class of people. In
fact, throughout most of history, success as an artist would require years of careful
study to refine one’s craft.

Try to imagine how Michelangelo’s David or the Sistine Chapel might have turned
out if the man’s hands had not been skilled with a chisel and brush. Add to that a thorough understanding of human anatomy, architecture, and the science of pigments and paints and it becomes clear that this artist’s success required a whole lot more than a novel idea.


Webster's 1828 dictionary defines craft as “art; ability; dexterity” or “skill.” The very idea implies that the creative task in question can be done well; measuring up to an established standard of rightness and excellence. This is why modern art has a bone to pick with craft.


A century of war on craft

For westerners of the modern and postmodern eras, science has become god.

It is a dreary outlook for the lovers and dreamers of society when beauty becomes more quantifiable than mysterious.

In response, artists today would like to pretend that the most beautiful things in the world are the least restrained. One
by one we kick down the pillars of disciplined design to see if anyone will notice. We forget that without limitation there can be no creativity. Our audience stares in disillusion at the masterpieces of modernity thinking "anyone could do that."

Students are taught that random smears and splatters are more profound than carefully placed strokes. Professors are
left wondering if it useful to grade their students on craftsmanship at all. Do successful painters really even need to know how to paint? When works as raw as "the Rebel" are selling for millions, the question becomes altogether logical.


What every artist knows 

Have you ever met an artist who considers himself profoundly creative? I have not. Next time you admire someone's work try
telling him how creative he is and you, will see what I mean. The "unprofessional" hobby sculptor will likely laugh and assure
you he has very little skill. The conscientious carpenter might shrug and tell you it is not real art. The budding designer will probably blush and defer you to all his sources of inspiration. None of us think we are completely original and anyone who says he is, is probably selling bad art.

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. Every effective artist is truly expressing his own pursuit of a timeless truth that existed before him.

We ourselves are creations! We are limited by the context of our own existence. We can dream. We can connect the dots. We can learn. We can grow. When we are honest, we will admit that we must connect with something outside of ourselves to create any work that is truly profound.


Let's get crafty 

The beauty of craft can again be realized when we learn that "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works," (Eph 2:10) We are a bunch of empty vases just waiting to be filled with something beautiful. It is only by encountering true Beauty that man can learn to express this beauty in a work of his own.

Fine Art is a craft of glorifying, interpreting, and displaying that beauty as an act of worship. Again and again we must hunt it down, know it better and express it in a way that resonates with ourselves and our audience. Every artist knows that this takes hard work. If you want to be sure it will happen at all, you will dare to say it takes discipline. A disciplined artist must get crafty. He must know his tools and hone his skills artfully.

"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work." - 2 Timothy 2:21

He must sharpen his strengths and know his limitations. He is not a mindless machine, but an earnest messenger and a ready workman. A disciplined artist understands that if he is to create at all, he must do so honestly, and that where there is honesty, there must be eloquence.

The disciplined artist will learn that in order to find beauty he must serve it.

He must become a humble craftsman.

Be a Great Artist < Make Great Art

You are always communicating something.

Maybe you're communicating through your words that you love someone... through your inaction that you are lazy... or through the way that you walk that you don't have a care in the world.

In Romans 1:19 it says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” I think its amazing how much this says about how God communicates and actually tells us something about His standards of truth. On top of this, the creation account in Genesis 1 and 5 says that mankind was made in God's image. The phrase being used, "imago dei", literally means image, shadow, or likeness.

When we act in a way contrary to God's character we are denying that we are made in His image. When you steal, lie, lust, gossip, covet, etc. you are actually lying about who God is because you are meant to reflect His creative nature. So often our lives are communicating the very opposite! 


Take a look at this small clip from the movie, "F is For Fake" by Orson Welles. This rather odd documentary is supposed to be an essay on deception, forgery, and the unreliability of experts... For the most part, I think the point of the film is to show how the current (current then, anyway) market promotes an artist above the art they are creating. Instead of valuing good art for what it's communicating, they value art based on the opinions of society.

We take so much time and energy trying to make a name for ourselves... what if we took that time and energy to communicate things greater than ourselves?

What if we made godly virtue the focus of our life's work instead of our own name? How do you think it would effect the message of what we produce?

It has all brought me to the conclusion that: Be a Great Artist < Make Great Art.

Proverbs 14:4 ~ Food Typography

I spent an afternoon Christmas season before last on a type project specifically for my Facebook cover photo. I used the verse Proverbs 14:4, which says, “Where there are no oxen the stable is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” My wife and I have really benefited from that verse, in particular it is a good reminder that seasons of productivity are shared with seasons of “messiness”. Just like it requires getting down and dirty to plant a garden in the spring to reap a rich harvest in the fall.

Some mentioned they would like a print of something like that (the cover photo they saw), so I decided I’d like to take a little more time in the future to make something that would show better in someone’s house.

It’s no surprise then, that I chose to do some food typography of this verse. It’s also no surprise that, never having practiced it before, it is definitely not print for house-worthy! The results were a good experience, if nothing else.

Our hostess graciously allowed me to use her vibrant, colorful spice collection! I used a dead pen and my fingers.

Any other food typographers out there? What is your process like? I intend to try again soon when I have another 2 hours to spare on food typography.

Right after I finished I took this shot with my phone to show some of the difference before and after editing, as well as the condition of the spices after clean up.

Art Camp

One of the things that Will and I have most enjoyed studying together and learning to apply the truth of Scripture to, is art - more specifically, our love for visual communication, excellent craft, and creativity of all sorts.  We  have each taken design classes on the collage level, which ignited our love for this particular field of study.  Despite the postmodern approach to truth that many of the classes we took promoted, we noticed how undeniable the rule of God over art and beauty becomes when you approach it from a design perspective.  We have since agreed that we would love to produce a design curriculum for students of all ages which teaches the foundations of visual design through the truth of Scripture and lays the foundation for excellence in all areas of art and aesthetics.   

We have a whole lot more to learn and are always excited to get our hand on good rescources, with we have found to be few and far between on this topic. Earlier this year, we had a chance to put some of our ideas into practice.  At our local home school support group, TACHE, we offered a class called Beginning Design.  Our guinea pig group of enthusiastic students was small and mostly comprised of good friends or family.  All of them were in the junior high to high school age range. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and appreciated the opportunity to begin refining some of our ideas.  The experience was certainly a learning one!  We were encouraged by the results and by the continued fruit we are observing in our students.

You can read more about our first go at a Beginning Design class on Will's photo blog here:
http://www.wmiii.co/search/label/Beginning%20Design

Last week we had another opportunity to teach a class, this time a group of young children ranging
pre-kindergarten to 4th grade!  The context, was a three hour day camp hosted by a family from church who invited us to lead their group of 11 children in an afternoon of learning and activities centered around art. 

I was particularly excited about this event because it was a chance to practice presenting the same material we had been working with in our Beginning Design class to a younger audience.  Once we got our feet wet, however, Will and I both agreed that working with the younger students was somewhat more intimidating for us than we expected.  Keeping things engaging, active, and exciting was important but an even higher priority for us was presenting solid content in a way that was simple and easy to grasp.  I am a firm believer that children are able to handle much deeper concepts than we usually assume, and that "dumbing down" material  cheats the student and the teacher out of the greatest growing experiences.  Instead, I have always enjoyed trying to simplify concepts to their most basic form, which I believe is helpful for both young and old minds alike.

The kiddos at the day camp were an excellent group of well trained listeners and eager participants.  This was probably key to the success of the day because I felt particularly lacking in sharpness and energy.   (That can happen when you're entering the third trimester of pregnancy you know!)  But I am happy to say that it was a great success, and I would be eager to give the lesson plan another go with another group of kids.  Any takers?

We started by discussing what art is and what it means to be an artist, settling on this conclusion:  

As artists who know God, it is our job to tell the world about what is true and beautiful with our art.  To do this we need to learn to create like the first and greatest artist – God himself!

From there, we looked at the Creation account, with the intent of discovering ways that we could create like God creates.  We split the day into 3 parts, with a few minutes of teaching followed by a hands on activity for each section.  For each teaching segment, we observed one or two principles of design in scripture and creation, defined the principles, and looked for application of the principles in some of Vincent Van Gogh paintings.  The students would then have 20 to 40 minutes to work on a project and apply what we had learned.  

This is a breakdown of the material we covered:  

From the creation account in Genesis 1, we discovered 5 secrets to making things beautiful:
a.      From Day 1 we discoverd CONTRAST
b.      From Day 2, 3 and 4 we discoverd REPETITIONand VARIATION
c.       From Day 5 and 6 we discoverd ORDER and UNITY

We were introduced to the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh as we learned how to use these secrets in beautiful artwork. 

 We applied what we learned by creating 3 projects:
a.      While painting a rainbow, we learned about COLOR, the color wheel, primary and secondary colors.
b.      Using found objects from outside, we practiced using pattern and creating a COLLAGE. 
c.       We worked together as a group to create a side walk chalk MURAL, representing each of our individual families.  

Vocabulary

CONTRAST: the word artists use when two things are so completely different that they both become more beautiful. 
REPETITION: the word we use to describe something that repeats over and over throughout a piece of art.  Repetition helps us understand what we see.   
VARIATION: the word we use to describe the parts of a piece of artwork that are different.  Variation keeps us interested in what we see. 
ORDER: what we call it when every part of a work of art has a purpose and a place
UNITY: what we call it when all of the parts of a work of art are working together well. 
COLOR: light broken up into parts
COLLAGE: a piece of art made from all kinds of materials and objects, organized into a beautiful pattern or picture
MURAL:  a very large piece of art, usually a painting that is made of many parts.  Murals are often created to decorate large walls or the sides of buildings.  


It was a full day but the kids did seem to really enjoy themselves.  It was also exciting to see some of the great artwork that they produced!