Art lesson: Free exploration/ working purposefully
Imagine two children who are asked to paint a picture of their house. The first child hasn't used these paints before, or for a long time. The second child was given them to play with yesterday.
The first child is a bundle of frustration. The paint colors are running together! My house is beige, not brown, and I can't make the color I want! I used the black paint and now I've ruined the yellow paint. And now it's all dripping on the floor! I quit!
The second child learned a lot yesterday just by playing with the paints and painting several pictures. She waits for one area to dry before painting next to it with another color. She mixes new colors on a clean sheet of paper. She cleans her brush carefully between color changes. She is working intently. When she finishes her first painting, she talks about it and then asks for another piece of paper. She's ready to try another.
The child who was given time to play and explore can now work purposefully.
If you paint two big wet spots next to each other, the paint will run together. Imagine how interesting and fun this can be when you are just playing and experimenting — watching the yellow paint swirl with the blue, and then the center is turning green.
Imagine how disappointing and discouraging this same effect is when you really wanted a yellow dress covered in blue flowers.
The lessons we learn during play, we apply when we are working to create something important to us.
To work with a purpose is to choose deliberately, with a definite goal in mind.
Imagine two children sitting down to draw a bird with a collection of pencils. One child hasn't used these pencils before; one has. Who will be more successful? Even pencils have different personalities — hard and soft leads make different kinds of lines, we can apply too much pressure so they break or make a hole in the paper, color can be dragged across with the edge of our hand and spoil our work.
To work purposefully is to reach for a material or a tool confidently, choosing it because we know what it will do.
We cannot work purposefully until we have become familiar with the materials and tools.
Free exploration means we have no goal in mind, we're just seeing what this material can do and what we can do with it.
We learn through play, and what we learn, we can use when to create work that is important to us.
(W)ith a sense of certainty, play is almost always mindful. People take risks and involve themselves in their play. Imagine making play feel routine; it would not be playful. In play, there is no reason not to take some risks. In fact, without risk, the pleasures of mastery would disappear. … We tend to be more adventurous at play because it feels safe. — Roger Kelly, Leisure
(Did you figure out this was a lesson for you and not for the children? :^D)