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The Journey

Allowing yourself to pour time, emotion, personality, and meaning into a project can be a daunting task. While this journey will include adversity, frustrations, and jolts in different directions, the journey can also offer an opportunity to learn more about yourself and provide a creative outlet to help keep your sanity.

As I visited the Art Department this week, I learned so much about the amazing journey - mentally, physically, and emotionally - that our students get to experience as artists. For some students, this journey has just begun as their passion for art will continue long after high school, and for others, this is a special part of their journey that will teach them a lot about themselves and essential skills that will guide them in the future.

Artists must have vision. Like anything else, getting started is the hardest part. At times, an artist's vision is clear from the beginning. Other times, the vision becomes clearer and clearer over time and during the process. I really enjoyed talking with students about their vision for past and current projects. Their eyes lit up as they talked about their work, and I was extremely impressed with their ability to explain how their vision changed over time due to various factors. In Mr. Steve Jones' Drawing class, one student was working on her second version of a drawing of a woman's profile. She had multiple pictures, shading tools, and techniques to make her vision come to life. She explained to me how the first version of the drawing helped her learn the process, transform her vision, and prepare for the second version. Ms. Robyn Sammit explained to me that her ceramics students learn various techniques throughout the semester, but their final project gives them a chance to create something of their choice, using the skills they learned. Many students sketched out their plans and had their vision on the table as they worked with the clay. While the teachers and students admit that a vision will change over time, it was clear that these changes are what make their work unique and meaningful.

Artists must be creative. Yes, we all know that creativity is essential when it comes to creation; however, utilizing creativity is not easy for everyone. The cool thing about creativity is that there is no right way to be creative. It is a personal touch. A different way of looking at things. Making whatever you create come alive. In Ms. Robyn Sammit's Studio Art Technique class,  students were starting to finalize their paper machete projects. Ms. Sammit modeled how to use wire to take their creations to the next level and gave them choice and ownership with how they utilized the wire. As Ms. Sammit modeled for her students, using a paper machete figure riding on a wire bike, the students asked her how she planned to finalize the piece. Color? More wire spokes? It was so fun to listen to their creative ideas for someone else's project. The best part about it - all students added a different, creative idea. See...creativity provides an opportunity for people to provide a personal, unique touch.
Similarly, in Mr. Jones' painting class, one student asked me for my opinion on what to do next. I am definitely not someone who considers herself creative, but as I looked at her painting and thought about what I saw, I allowed myself to think creatively. I shared some ideas about color and lines, and she listened, considered, and dialogued with me about it. It was an awesome process, and I felt inspired by her work and willingness to be creative and open to ideas when it came to her work.

Artists must have patience. Wow - so much patience. In every class I visited, I learned that students work days and weeks on a single project. In classes like ceramics, they work on a project for days, then wait days for their work to be in the kiln, then apply paint, and then wait days again while it continues to dry in the kiln. Ms. Sammit and Ms. Carol Kinast explained that it is just part of the process, and they must factor in this time when creating their class work. In Mr. Adam Johnson's computer graphics classes, students worked diligently to create digital images. Lines, color, shapes, shadows - students must take all into account when perfecting their projects and devote time to making it happen. In classes like painting and drawing, students may work an entire period on figuring out how to create a correct line, add appropriate shading, or mixing colors to find the appropriate color scheme for their vision. It is a process. Time goes by fast as students work hard to take their vision to the next level, but as they gain more experience, they learn that patience is key to creating a special final product.

Artists must be intuitive. They must trust their gut and act on instinct when it comes to their work. Ms. Kinast explained to me that at times, there is no formula or equation to produce the correct final product; instead, students must be intuitive and fail forward as they try new things and learn more about their craft. In Ms. Kinast's 3D Printing and Design classes, I felt like students were speaking a different language as they explained the process of creating renderings online to print a 3D object. The work they complete on a daily basis - the precision, thought, trial and error, and intuition - is out of this world. While frustrating at times, students provided evidence that they learned so much from their experiences and created projects. Ms. Kinast explained that many of these students have taken choice and ownership to the next level as they have given her ideas for future class projects. By following their own paths and being intuitive, our students are expanding the possibilities for future students who want to learn more about this artistic style.

Artists appreciate and grow. This is my favorite part. If you haven't walked into an art classroom lately, I highly encourage you to do so. The atmosphere is calming, inspiring, and welcoming to all. Our teachers have created a safe environment for our students to be themselves while challenging their creativity and minds. Once they finish a project, they get to appreciate the process and learn from all parts of the journey. Many of the teachers require their students to complete a final portfolio of their work, which allows the students to not only showcase what they created but also reflect on their journey. Ms. Kinast asks students in her classes to create a Google slides presentation with pictures and videos of their work and explanations of the process. What a great way to encourage students to appreciate their hard work and creativity! As I'm sure you can see, our art teachers are pretty amazing!

As I draw this to a conclusion, I am most excited about the conversations I had with our art students. Their passion, vulnerability, and willingness to try new things were all visible as I asked them about their work. While the artist's journey isn't always pretty, it seems that our students have learned to take each day as it comes and let the imperfections become stepping stones towards a new, improved direction. As Mr. Jones explained to me, "That's just part of being an artist." #whatsup