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Ask Vanessa: Do you help to prepare my child for art in primary school? — 9Feb 2014

Singaporean parents are not having it easy. Cost of living is rising, schools are getting competitive (some less competitive), and housing much scarcer and expensive. We fret about milk powders, gym training, right brain development, pre-school admissions, and getting ready for primary school while still in pre-school!

For that, every parent deserves more than just one Mother’s or Father’s day off a year!

In this blog post, I’d like to discuss a common question I get from parents: “Do you help to prepare my child for art in primary school?”

Such questions really put me on the spot. Let me explain why.

Art is bigger than the classroom.

Schools follow an extensive art curriculum, covering a broad range of art topics, from art forms and principles of design, to elements of art. Students are also exposed broad ranges of skill training in art techniques, visual inquiry, communication, research and processing. If you’re interested, read about the primary school and lower secondary art syllabus.

But art is more than that. Art is imagining, exploring, interacting, and immersing.

Every student’s art learning journey in Artary brings them through creative and engaging themes, experiencing art through imaginative play and immersive music pieces, learning facts and knowledge about their artworks every week. Students learn as much about their art as about the world around them.

We believe in preparing our students not just for the classroom, but for the world around them.

Artary goes beyond the primary school syllabus.

Artary’s programmes focus not only on the variety of art theory, but also the depth of training provided.

Our students undergo a diversified and structured programme to acquire and master sets of practical art skills that build a strong foundation in art. For example, brush stroke techniques recur frequently during the programme, to provide students ample practices to be masterful in handling the brush.

Our goal is for all students to be skilfully equipped to practice art on their own, over and beyond what they learn in school.

To us, art is all about the experience.

Artary has always been about providing the best art experience. The experience of students is so important to us that our art sessions are conducted in very small groups, so that every student not only receive close guidance, but luxurious opportunities to participate in group discussions and to share experiences with their peers.

With a good foundation from Artary, our students often relate proudly the confidence they exhibit in absorbing during their lessons in schools, and the ability to appreciate and approach the school’s art projects with vastly different perspectives from their classmates.

So, no. We do not prepare your child for art in primary school. We’re preparing them for something bigger.

Sincerely,
Vanessa

Ask Vanessa is a new blog series where Vanessa shares insights into children arts education, parents’ questions, best practices and tips. Follow Artary’s Facebook page or our blog for more updates.

Ask Vanessa: Encouraging Creativity in Children — 6Mar 2013

One of my biggest joys in Artary derives from the bountiful smiles I encounter everyday from our wonderful kids. The interest and passion for art that the children bring to the studio is not only energizing, but very contagious!

Many parents are supportive in developing their children in the arts, but why so? Two responses frequently surface in my conversations with parents. Firstly, to develop their child’s drawing and painting skills, and secondly, while doing so, enjoy themselves! Regrettably, most parents equate the value of art by the aesthetics of the artwork.

In children’s art education, there is more to just aesthetics and mastery of art skills and proficiency. In Artary, we put as much, if not more, attention on developing the creativity and nurturing the capacity to imagine in children.

In this blog post, I’d like to share a three simple techniques on HOW to encourage creativity in young children. You may also find that these techniques can be applied in most aspects of learning!

Remember the 3 R’s (reuse, reduce, recycle) of the environment? Now, introducing, the 3 E’s to encourage creativity in children!

Expose

Children crave for variety, and exposing them to new and refreshing materials in every artwork is the best way to excite and entice a child’s curiosity. The home can be a fantastic trove of recyclable materials for artworks! Collect used cloths, old newspapers, packing cardboards, ice cream sticks and milk cartons, clean and stow them in your art chest. Take a walk in the park, find and collect interestingly shaped dried leaves, stones and pebbles of various colours and shapes, or even sand of different grain sizes! Keep a stash of materials in different colours, shapes, sizes and textures, you never know when you need it! Exposing children to a variety of materials allows them to be aware of their environment, and to develop a keen eye in observing the world around them. They will start to recall, relate and compare materials, and are more likely to use them at unexpected times!

Explore

Encourage your child to hold, touch, feel and play with art materials. Allow them to explore by stretching, scratching, pinching, twisting, moulding, bending or even peering into the surface of the material through a magnifying glass! One of my favourite trick is “magically” transforming a carrot doodle on an orange balloon into a papaya as I inflate the balloon with just a few breaths! Exploring the world with the hands creates many opportunities for children to self discover. Through observations of changes in shapes, sizes and states of materials as a result of their actions, children are trained to expect and anticipate differences. Children tend to interact with their environment with more confidence and creativity, and are more likely to think of alternatives and imagine from different perspectives.

Artary How to encourage creativity in children
Exchanging Pablo Picasso’s face for Pikachu’s. (Source: Pablo Pikachu’s Self Portrait)

Exchange

Have you seen a car on triangle wheels? Ever come across an orang utan with an afro hairdo? Are pink oranges as tasty as orange ones? Tickle your child’s imagination by switching and swapping everything with almost anything! Encourage your child to challenge the norm by exchanging colours, positions, sizes or even personalities! Paint unreal colours onto animals, or arrange features of the human at random! Spice up the artwork by telling fun and deeply imaginative stories featuring your child’s unique creations. Exchanges are a fun and visual way for children to create new varieties and discover combinations in art independently, often with unexpectedly creative solutions to the “unnatural problems” they created!

That’s it! At your next art activity, encourage creativity in your child with the 3 E’s! (Expose, Explore & Exchange)

Try it, and share your results with us!

Sincerely,
Vanessa

Ask Vanessa is a new blog series where Vanessa shares insights into children arts education, parents’ questions, best practices and tips. Follow Artary’s Facebook page or our blog for more updates.

Ask Vanessa: Four real benefits of art education for your child — 2Mar 2013

We’ve all heard of it. Art is exceptionally beneficial to young children, specifically fine motor skills, spatial awareness, creativity building and social skills building. Art can also improve short attention spans and spur the development of the left brain.

Art it seems, is that omnipotent pill for every child.

But the science behind the benefits of art is too lengthy and confusing to most of us. Evidences are usually anecdotal, or originate from “distant relatives” and ex-colleagues. And the likes of Piccaso, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci, we don’t make many of them these days, do we? Even if art is that power pill, how should we assess the benefits of art? Debates about art is the most subjective, least agreed upon, and most confusing!

Every week, hundreds of students come by Artary for the best art experience. I have the front row seat in interacting, educating, growing and building relationships with students from widely different backgrounds, ages and countries, each engaged in art for reasons of their own.

Over these years, I’m fortunate to have discovered the REAL benefits of a well-designed and delivered art education.

1. Art helps children learn to be more discipline at work.

Children are natural artists… they first pick up a crayon, and the rest as they say… gets dirty. Drawing is every child’s first experience with art. A parent recently shared with me this anecdote about his son, “This mean drawing machine appetite is insatiable! He just blazies through immense amounts of paper everyday… I got to keep buying and buying.. ” He held a breath and frowned, “But he doesn’t really finish his work… it’s all doodles!”

“Please, have him finish his artworks. He needs to get used to completing what he started!” I pleaded.

Parents need to know this: Children need to get used to completing their drawings! Encourage your child to complete their doodles, scribbles, and stick figures. Build their discipline of completing every artwork, and make it a habit. Start having them used to completing their art work. After all, it’s much easier than academic subjects!

Children will learn that work must be completed. No matter how much more time it takes, every student is expected to complete their artwork. It is not uncommon to see my students extending their sessions beyond the time. If you start it, make sure you finish it!

If he cannot complete his artwork, chances are that he will NOT complete his mathematics homework too!

2. Art allows children to learn, explore and understand the world around them.

Children benefit most only if the art education is holistic. A holistic art education must be well supported by components in drawing, colouring, sculpturing, creativity building and communication. In most cases, it is during art classes in the early years that children first come to contact with materials (e.g. paints, clays, paper varieties, adhesives, cloth, etc.) and tools (e.g. scissors, carving knives, moulds etc.).

Art allows children to experience these materials and tools through their fingers, and explore their properties through different methods of application and usage. First-hand experience, in a safe and controlled environment!

Children also observe manifestations and properties when the same materials are used in different artworks. They witness how tools can adapted to be used in different artworks. Problem solving 101!

White glue is used an adhesive in a lion collage mask, and as a stiffener in a paper marche pinata. See how two specially designed artworks can be used to perfectly demonstrate the unique properties and creative use of white glue? Brilliant!

Artary is proud to be provide the first experience for every child. We are committed to providing quality, child-safe materials and tools, used in new, interesting and creative ways!

3. Children become more expressive and accepting of differences

Children who engage in art, seemingly, are more expressive.

They talk about their day in school, the lunch at granny’s place, how they missed the trip to Gardens By the Bay because they couldn’t complete homework on time etc. They also talk about their favourite colours, the cartoons they really adore, and the insects that make them squirm.

Personalisation is the foremost requirement in every artwork. Students talk about how they think and feel: people and events, colours and shapes, food and smells. We make sure that every artwork be laced with personality details! Every work must be intimate and uniquely personal. Allowing a child’s personality to shine in their artwork is a magnificent confidence booster, and heightens their willingness to participate!

Parents may be surprised at how expressive their kids can be. Children do build elaborate story lines to accompany their artwork, and that imaginative energy that happens between children in a class is often highly creative, magical and totally unexpected!

These interactions and observations of each others artworks helps children learn to accept possibilities, alternatives and differences. Children will learn to value their personality, yet respecting the differences in others.

4. Art makes children genuinely happy.

One common misconception that parents have is that art is all about creativity, relaxing, and fun. But do you know that art classes also involves components of skill training, learning concepts and art discipline? It can be physically demanding and mentally challenging!

So why do I say that art makes children genuinely happy? What is our secret sauce?

It’s hard not to love art! Almost everything is accepted, and there’s hardly any “correct answer”. Most importantly, no homework, no pressure! Children know that art is one of the few things where they can truly do “their thing”, and are genuinely happy at that!

The icing on the cake is to provide a truly good art experience, one that immerses the child into the artwork, soothing accompanying music, the highest quality of materials and tools, and the most supportive and caring mentors.

If you want a happy child, let them do art!

Sincerely,
Vanessa

Ask Vanessa is a new blog series where Vanessa shares insights into children arts education, parents’ questions, best practices and tips. Follow Artary’s Facebook page or our blog for more updates.

Ask Vanessa: How to Stop Drawing Stick Figures? — 26Feb 2013

A parent recently shared with me that his son has been drawing a lot at home, but does not seem to be able to draw properly. I often hear parents passing such comments, but from experience, not being able to draw properly means differently to different parents! How exactly was his son not drawing properly?

In this case, the child was not drawing properly because he has been drawing humans with stick figures! The parent exclaimed that the child has no problems drawing buildings, cars and trees properly. However, when it comes to drawing humans, he could only represent them as stick figures. “Stick figures?” I repeated with raised brows. “Yes! Kung-fu style stick figures!” the parent exploded. We shared a moment of laughter and I heaved a sigh of relief. I assured the parent that this was normal for most pre-school children.

There is a useful technique which I share with parents to encourage their children to go further than just stick figures. It’s easy, fun and a great way for parents to do art with their children!

Don’t stop drawing stick figures – Complete them!

Stick figures are the simplest way to represent the posture of a human, and is usually the first method for children to represent the human body. Instead of allowing your child to stop at that, egg them on to complete their stick figures!

Explain to your child that the stick figure is only a skeleton, and to give life to the human, we have to place flesh onto the body! To do so, draw basic shapes over the stick figure, starting with the torso, followed by the arms, hands, legs, and finally the feet.

Artary How to stop children from drawing stick figures
Draw basic shapes over the stick figure, starting with the torso.

Continue to let the story unfold into one that your child is familiar with, so that you can design costumes and clothes along with your child. Draw in sleeves, fill in shirt buttons, pants, shoes, or any other accessories for decoration! Fill in as much details as possible.

Completing stick figures allows children to recognise that stick figures are the first step to drawing humans. By decorating their characters with costumes and clothes, the image of how a realistic human should look like will strengthen in the minds of the children. Over time, this process will influence the child to not only draw stick figures, but to continue on to compose realistic and meaningful characters of a story!

Try it, and share your results with us!

Sincerely,
Vanessa

Ask Vanessa is a new blog series where Vanessa shares insights into children arts education, parents’ questions, best practices and tips. Follow Artary’s Facebook page or our blog for more updates.
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