Teaching art for the sake of art

Art teacher Robin Bradley with a student in a summer art class.

Robin Bradley’s philosophy for her summer art class is Art for the Sake of Art. She has created a space, an environment where her students’ creativity can thrive, and where artistic experimentation is encouraged. Bradley teaches art at Page Middle School, and this summer, she’s teaching an art class for PUSD’s summer enrichment program.

“We spend the regular school year learning the art standards, the techniques and the different methods, said Bradley. “After my students learn them, we get to spend a little time using them to make art, but then we have to move on to the next set of standards. But my summer art class is different. My summer classes are about having fun creating art using the skills and techniques we learned during the year, and we create art just for the joy of creating art.”

Student artist, Makayla Goatson, is loving the summer art class. “I love doing art,” she said.

As much as Goatson loves creating art and attending art classes, she loves orchestra even more. So, during the regular school year she takes orchestra class rather than art, but wishes she has time to do both. She was very excited when she heard Page Middle School was offering an art class over the summer. Goatson loves all forms of art, but her favorite form is sketching.

“I’m always doing it,” she said. “When I’m home and in my free time, but it’s been fun being able to do it with other people.”

Another student, Truex Williams, who will be an eighth grader in the coming school year, has enjoyed having time to experiment with his art projects. One area Williams has enjoyed working on during the summer art class has been perfecting his shading skills. “I like exploring different colors and using different color combinations, and when I find one I like, I make it look really nice with shading,” he said. “I like to make it shine!”

Finding the color combinations that work well together, and getting the shading just right, involves a lot of trial and error, he says. Sometimes he tosses an unsatisfactory work in the garbage, and starts again.

That’s a good quality in an artist, Bradley said. “Each time he tries it – the shading – it gets more intricate and experimental.”

Of course, students are free to create art on their terms any time they want in their own homes, but the school has something students may not have at home: large quantities of art resources and supplies. In Bradley’s art classroom, students have free access to different types of art paper, paper creasers, wax melters, paint, brushes, stamps, presses, pencils. And the shelves of Bradley’s classroom are stacked with old National Geographics, and photography magazines. Her kids can look at them for inspiration, or cut pictures out of them for collages their creating.

Learning the techniques and the standards for creating art is a very important aspect for budding artists, said Bradley, but equally important – probably more important to the development of a future artist – is having those free-create periods, because that’s when a young artist falls in love with art, and creating art.

“Yes, it’s important for students to the learn the proper techniques, but it’s just as important for them to learn to love art, and to experience that amazing feeling you only get when you’ve created something beautiful that brings them, or someone else, a lot of joy,” said Bradley. “It’s during times like these, when developing artists are allowed to create freely, to explore the powers of their creativity, when they become life-long artists. And that’s something I encourage year-round. In my classroom, I want to create more than art. I want to create artists.”

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