Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Giving up too easily

Reflections on process

I am a believer that the process of creating is just as important as the final creation itself.  What often happens when creating art is the artist ends up “starting over” a few times before the final artwork comes to life.  This is not a bad thing if the artist has figured out that the design is not working out as intended or that materials are not right for the concept.  Then the starting over becomes a milestone of learning.  Reaching that milestone usually entails some frustration along the way.  Not giving up, until you have found a solution to express your idea visually is a characteristic of a dedicated artist.  It’s a character strait that crosses all disciplines. 

However, in high school art we are not dealing with many “dedicated” artists.  We are dealing with teenagers who have been programed to expect instant gratification.  My students have grown up with digital media and social networking as the normal means of communication and entertainment.  They are the “plugged in” generation.  Fast food drive through, instant energy drinks, and late nights surfing the web and playing video games have contributed to the expectation of seeing results as soon as the idea pops into their head.  “Getting it right the first time” is what our education system has trained our students to expect of themselves.  When a student doesn’t get a concept, they simply fail the test.  The teacher moves on because they still have so much to cover before the year end state mandated standardized test.  Where’s the time to figure it out?  Essentially, students are being trained that they must get it right the first time around or they will fail.  So then, what happens to students after years of this type of expectation?

I have experienced what happens.  What happens is that students give up easily when at first they don’t succeed or they want to keep starting over rather than adjusting to incorporate unexpected outcomes.  They are not willing to push a concept beyond their first thought. In art you either adapt the design or concept to fit the media you have to work with or you find the media that will best communicate your concept.  This doesn’t always happen instantly.  Herein lays the problem.  You must take time to figure it out.   Most of my students don’t have the patience or stamina to figure out how to expand on an idea to find unique ways of representing a concept.  They want the teacher to tell them what to do, how to do it, and then expect it to look like original and unique. The cookie cutter method only works on standardized tests where there is only one right answer. 
It’s frustrating to me as their teacher that they want to just give up so easily.  So often I have students get started on a really unique project that has great artistic merit, is complex but not so much that the students can’t do it, and that has the potential to be great.  Then, at the first speed bump in construction they get frustrated and then give up choosing to do the simplest mundane project because they don’t want to have to think through their first idea and the frustration that often comes with doing something for the first time.

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