Art teachers are often frustrated by a lack of creativity in their students’ work. But why do so many art students lack originality – the one thing essential to the core of art class? A couple explanations for this absence of creative behavior could be: students are unmotivated by the current assignment, want to stay in their ‘comfort zone’ and not appear different to their classmates, do not want to work and put thought into something, or do not realize the creative options available to them.
Indeed, there is an art to getting students to think creatively, and it takes practice and skill on a teacher’s part to accomplish this task. Here are a few methods that can be used to address these issues and teach art students to think ‘outside-the-box’:
Teach students to think creatively by: preparing interesting, relevant, open-ended art assignments – If the goal of an assignment is for students to replicate a teacher’s model, then there is no room or need for originality. Likewise, if a student views an assignment as ‘boring’ or ‘pointless’, they won’t be motivated. Plan art lessons that excite your students, relate to their lives, and give them the opportunity to express their unique perspectives.
Teach students to think creatively by: providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere, open to new ideas – All people fear rejection, to some degree. Art students will not express themselves creatively in class if they don’t feel comfortable, or feel that their ideas won’t be accepted. Encourage a classroom environment where it is welcomed and okay to go ‘outside the norm.’
Teach students to think creatively by: providing lesson guidelines and parameters – Nothing is gained or achieved by possessing complete freedom. A student who has no parameters will fail, because there is no direction leading them where to go (as in much of life!). Establish clear guidelines for your students; after all, it is within challenges that problem-solving takes place. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Teach students to think creatively by: placing a high value on originality – Art teachers should make a big deal out of emphasizing uniqueness, one-of-a-kind work, originality and creativity. These concepts should be discussed in class, praised in student work, and set as an expectation andrequirement for all classwork.
Teach students to think creatively by: encouraging brainstorming – Although some are capable of coming up with original ideas on-the-spot, for most people it takes time and effort to think outside-the-box. When an assignment is given, have your art students take a while to ‘sit on it’, brainstorm, map out, and experiment with ideas before they commit to one. As an art teacher, I’ve often required students to design three options before they begin a project. This encourages them to see things from new angles, think in new ways and ‘stretch’ their imaginations. And many times, a second or third idea far surpasses their first.
Teach students to think creatively by: playing problem-solving art games – Art games can be a source of relief, a reward, a way to break up classroom monotony, or a way to encourage students to think outside-the-box. Students pretend to be designers, designing the latest and wackiest products in “The Creativity Game” – Check out the description and rules of this game, listed in the article “Substitute Teaching in an Art Class: Creative and Stress-Free Learning Activities for Art Students.”
Teach students to think creatively by: showing students artistic options – Art students need to know that they are “allowed” to think creatively and that it’s encouraged. Make a point to show students how artists have tackled the same art subjects, but handled them all in different ways with very unique results.
For instance, there has been a recent art movement in U.S. cities to create dozens of similar public sculptures based upon regional characteristics and have artists design each one differently. Cleveland, Ohio had a public sculpture event centered around guitars, honoring the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Warren, Ohio held a public artwork event dedicated to the “Goddess of Speed”, due to the area’s history with Packard cars. Chicago, Illinois is famously known for its “Cows on Parade” exhibit. In each of these displays, artists took the same subject and approached it in a different way, creating a fascinating assortment of artworks. Take a look at Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” exhibit here: “Clever Mag: Cows on Parade.
Teach students to think creatively by: making sketchbooks an integral part of class work – Encourage art students to keep sketchbooks. It isn’t surprising that, throughout the history of art, some of the world’s greatest artists (Da Vinci, for one) kept dozens of sketchbooks – many that have survived hundreds of years. Sketchbooks can be used for drawing studies, perfecting technique, recording ideas, brainstorming, and experimenting with designs. Often, art students many find that something they quickly drew in their sketchbook turns out to be a one-of-a-kind artwork original!
Although all art students possess the ability to think creatively, teachers sometimes have to teach them ‘how’ to do it. First, a student has to feel comfortable in expressing new ideas, they need to brainstorm, be excited about the assignment, and they need to know that there are available options.
For more on teaching art, check out:
Sample Art Class Rules for Elementary
Graphic Design Art Lessons for High School Students
Ceramics Lessons for High School Art Classes
7 Easy Ways to Make Your Art Class Environmentally-Friendly
Using Technology in the Elementary Art Classroom