It’s usually just a matter of time: Students exploring the possibilities in the paint center will eventually paint their hands. Hand painting must be the forbidden fruit in school art rooms –scorned and banned, but inexplicably appealing.
Oh, and it’s also contagious. There has been a rash of hand-painting in the studio recently, spreading virally from student to student and class to class. In one class, the fever spread from hands to feet, and then something unusual happened. After a day of experiencing and experimenting, one student declared “today was a practice day. Tomorrow we will do the real one.” This crew came in the next day, pulled off their shoes, organized themselves and started in.
Before long, a new plan emerged: they would use this new painting method to paint a large American flag as a welcome home banner for one student’s dad who is soon returning from Afghanistan.
This plan was executed over two days before it was abandoned, perhaps because their ideas grew beyond their skill and control, or perhaps because the result was not up to their standards. They changed media again, adding large cut out letters to a hand-print background, in effect combining printmaking with collage. The cut out letters provided the attractive appearance they were after, while the hand-printed background preserved evidence of their original joy.
What was fascinating to their art teacher was the process from experimentation to clear intent. Students’ ideas shifted from play to care, as Professor John Crowe of Massachusetts College of Art and Design would say. Through discovery learning, students applied their new-found knowledge to a purposeful use of media and technique – a technique they themselves invented.