Teaching is a beast, as many of you know. Working with small children can be a rewarding while at the same time a challenging feat.
For the past couple weeks I was able to clear my schedule of other gigs and teach summer Cartooning to ages 6-12 at the College of Creative Studies Detroit. There were parts to my classes that took me back to the structure of undergraduate courses I’ve taught in Chicago and I suppose to me the results were surprising. I hadn’t realized how similar challenges can arise in studio courses for any age.
Alot of people fear making a mistake. Particularly in drawing and writing.
This is something I never understood but have now seen across age groups and skill sets. From little kids to big kids, the anxiety of making an incorrect mark can leave a young artist with a blank page in their sketchbook for hours. As an educator I’ve found its important to create a safe environment for students to relax and at least “try” drawing or cartooning things they may have been avoiding for years. Detailed drawings of faces, noses, ears and hands seem to be most common.
For young children “cartooning” can be a great passion, but also a scapegoat. When asked to warm up the day with gestural drawings of a still life, many students experienced heart palpitations and fire breathing at the idea of having to draw something “real.” The pressure of drawing something exactly as it appears was simply too much. (Exactly as it appears was not even my request, merely their assumption when asked to “look” and “see”)
We pushed through the anxiety however, with excellent positive results. Once students realized that the world would not come crashing down around them for giving it a try, I was able to guide them towards the excitement of practicing. Skills can be improved, things become clearer and perfection is truly never the point in nearly anything we take on as humans. The real focus is to keep trying and remembering what you learn along the way.
I loved to draw everything around me so much, I never cared about things being right. I wanted to create my studio art so much, that I never noticed the “competition”. Let’s all do our own thing and forget about the pressure of doing it exactly right. Being natural and honest about your interests and skills has always worked better in my experience- than any faking, fronting or playing an overly competitive person is trying to pull.