Artistic Purpose

To ask students to create an artwork without an artistic purpose (as opposed to a student purpose) is akin to teaching only for the purpose of helping students to pass a standardized test.

Thoughts by P. J. Irving, art teacher
Thoughts by P. J. Irving, art teacher

A student (in an outdated paradigm) is supposed to learn skills and knowledge. An artist makes a work of art to explore an idea, to communicate meaning, or to express themselves. We should be designing instruction in a way that allows students to not just practice a skill, but to practice being an artist. Design every artmaking challenge with a purpose that goes beyond applying or practicing a skill.

DONT ask students to create a self portrait showing an understanding of facial proportions and shading.

DO ask students to apply these skills to create a portrait that communicates conflict between their inner and outer self, or any number of other concepts such as social façade, personal roles and obligations, or influence of media on self image.

DON’T ask students create a city scape using multiple ground lines, linear perspective, overlapping, and atmospheric perspective.

DO ask students to apply these skills to represent the psychological significance of a place, or any number of other concepts such as utopia/dystopia, entropy/change over time, or the effects of time on memory.

Let your students be artists!


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