Some have discussed the progress of their kids’ artworks with me. We have addressed the issue of how close to reality their images can get and I have said that the aim of their art should not be limited to them being able to reproduce what they and we see. Deciding that we like art is often about our willingness to be free from expecting everything to look familiar. (If that were a rule there would be no singing, buildings or fireworks.)
I do not believe that art is only about recreating what the eye can see. We call that Realism and it is the basis of many beautiful artworks. But it is a learned skill with many visual tricks and devices to satisfy a goal and entertain the viewer. It requires a lot of practice and takes years to perfect. Drawing is the foundation of all art. For realistic works, an artist must train their mind to use drawing skills to create the illusion of reality where it is not. The realistic qualities of a work are on a spectrum from that which mimics the actual subject to that which only hints at some characteristic of it. It can be as simple as shape and colour e.g. a red circle means a bowl of strawberries. I attend to my students’ drawing skills with devotion and teach them the tricks required to make things look as they do, but I will not judge them against it being just another way to use materials.
I do believe that art is to show what the artist has discovered about the world or themselves. Sometimes that is about what things look like, what they feel like or how they stimulate the imagination. Then using the elements of point, line, shape, tone, colour, form and texture an artwork is born. Skills such as colour competency, an understanding of materials like plaster, paper-mache, watercolour, pastel, charcoal, printing inks and modelling materials are what is appropriate for the middle school aged art students.