Monday, January 15, 2007

Men at work and art teaching

This photo of an electric company worker and the previous two photos (one of a car repair shop and one of lifeguards) have a common theme of "Men at work", which is not entirely accidental. The theme reminds me of a secondary school art exam more than 40 years ago. Students were required to make a painting, on terrible paper and with terrible paints, on this very theme. I don’t believe any of the students had ever done a figure drawing from life. Whatever art teaching we had may have done no harm but I don’t think it did much good either. In fact I don’t remember being taught anything at all, though I could be wrong on that point. In my memory, art classes were for daubing around with no very clear purpose, though I remember liking art a good deal. So how would a class of 16-year-olds, with no knowledge, no facts, no experience, have tackled the theme of "Men at work" out of their heads? I know my own effort was pathetic. I did a variation of a picture that the teacher had praised in the past, containing a dramatic rearing horse. The trouble was, its relation to the theme of "Men at work" was tenuous at best.

Art was a Cinderella subject in my school at that time. The other subjects were fine. We even got to blow glass in the Physics lab. I often wonder about art teaching now, especially in secondary school. How does it differ from the bad old days?


No comments: