Last week I headed out to County Durham to work with two classes of year six children on Rosarts' Storified Schools Project. Doing workshops for schools are one of my favourite things about running my little business - I get to go into classrooms and inspire the children to have fun with writing, as well as art.
I've said for a long time that art is one of the most underused tools when it comes to teaching, for many reasons. The main one being, I feel, a lack of confidence from a teaching perspective - but I genuinely believe that the benefits outweigh the hangups we adults often have.
It's strange, art tends to be one of those things that people liken to maths in the sense of "oh, I'm rubbish at it, I can't do it to save my life". The amount of people who say this to me is incredible. It makes me wonder what happened earlier in their own education, to make them feel that way. When did they start saying this to themselves, and why?
I can pinpoint the exact moment my brain decided I was useless at maths. It was back in primary school, and without going into details I know exactly when, how and why that happened, and it took me years to overcome that thought process. For most of my childhood and adult life I have had no confidence with maths because of that experience.
Thankfully during my teacher training I had some gentle coaching from my father-in-law, who encouraged me to tackle my maths-phobia, without pressure, from scratch - and it absolutely worked.
Turns out, I wasn't rubbish at maths at all...I'd just been led to think that way because of my experiences as a child at school.
Is the same thing happening to kids when it comes to art?
Why are so many adults convinced that they're "useless" at art? You have to wonder where that comes from and why - is it even true? The sad fact is, the pressure to be perfect that we all feel, right from childhood, is killing our sense of ability.
Nobody is useless at art. I strongly believe that. Art, like anything else, is about having a go. Who cares if it's not perfect? Seriously, who cares? If you're not keen on your drawing, try again. Try something else. Use a different pen. Just relax and have fun with it, that's the key thing. Remove the pressure to draw perfectly and you're free.
Art is still art regardless of what you think it looks like. If you made it - it's art. If you had fun making it, it's a beautiful piece of art. I'm sure critics would argue, but that's my view on it.
I'm so tired of hearing people say that they're "rubbish" at drawing and painting. You know why? Because I so often hear children saying it too when I work with them - and that sucks. It really does.
We should try our best to lead by example in all things, and by that we should be teaching our kids that drawing is something that we all can do, even if it doesn't come naturally we can all have a try at it - without any pressure to 'get it right'.
"It's your work, so try and have fun with it."
Here's what happened last week. I went into this school and asked the children if they could write a poem. Overwhelmingly, the reaction was negative. I then asked if they liked art. This was a mixed bag of "yeah but I'm rubbish at it" and "no I can't do it" responses. I told them that they all could, and that the main rule of my day working with them would be that no ideas are bad ideas, and that they must stop being so hard on themselves.
They agreed, and began to try. It was slow going at first - some weren't sure how to deal with the freedom to create without guidelines, but by the end of the day they were absolutely over the moon with what they'd made. Even the children who said they "hated" art had created something truly beautiful that they wanted to show the class. They were proud of themselves. How often does that happen when it comes to children's writing and drawing?
Their topic was a murder mystery novel set in the Victorian era (gruesome but fun), and these are some of their finished pieces of work:
This is the reason I love bringing my Storified Art workshops to schools. The chance to show children that they can create, and that they can use their imaginations to write creatively too is a privilege.
The best thing about it though? That bit at the end of the day when a child comes up to me and says they're going to go home and draw something that night - that gives me hope.
Hope that somehow I'm helping a generation of people to stop saying they're rubbish at art when they're all grown up.
We're not rubbish. Let's stop telling ourselves that we are, then our children won't either.