Monday, October 13, 2008

Finger Painting: We go back to the Basics

"I want this group to be able to do things you don't normally do in your regular art classes."
I stood in the center of about ten students gathered in the art studio for the first organizational meeting of the Max Hayes Art Club.
"We can visit galleries and meet professional artists in their studios, we can experiment with different mediums, I have tons of ideas. How about you guys? What would you like to do?"
A short silence ensued while eyes scoured the room for inspiration.
"I want to finger-paint."
Smirking at the silliness, I shook my head. "C'mon now. Be serious."
My comment unleashed a torrent of teen-aged voices. "I want to finger-paint too!", "I never got a chance in kindergarten.", "It would be the most fun thing EVER!", "I love finger-painting!", "Pleeease, please, please, let us finger-paint!"
Wow! I hadn't seen so much adolescent enthusiasm for an activity that didn't involve food in a long, long time. It would be wrong to quash this kind of passion. So, setting aside my personal dislike for this kiddie-kraft, I capitulated.
"Okay then... next Thursday we will finger-paint."

My excited little group began to gather in the art room before the last class of the day was even over. A few stopped in to tell me they would be late, since other commitments needed their attention first, but to PLEASE make sure and save them some paint.

About ten years ago, I gratefully accepted a big box of art supplies from a friend who was retiring from teaching elementary school. In it were all kinds of craft items and paper tablets along with several dusty jars of finger paint. After sitting in my closet for a decade I hoped they had not dried out.

A table in the back of the room was cleared to make room for large paper, and I spooned out dishes of the colorful gel, slightly shrunken, but still usable.

Eager hands could hardly wait. It was time to get messy.

There is something both primal and decadent about finger paint. A lifetime of hand washing caused some reluctance to stick my own paws in the paint, but I forced myself to make the plunge. Although I smeared and scribbled a little with my fingers, I still could not cross that uncomfortable mental barrier of "ickyness", and after a few minutes, retreated to the sink.

The kids, however, happily experimented with color mixing and technique. Given complete creative freedom, images began to emerge. Landscapes, rainbows, monsters, and Halloween characters soon covered the tables.

As four o'clock neared, the inevitable question was raised;

"When are we going to do this again?"

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pedro-fabian said...

yeah we loved finger painting ohhhh and the green hands on the top are mine kul huh

marybeth said...

Thanks for leaving a comment Pedro!
I'll have to post some more photos of our follow-up painting session.

Nice picture.

auto parts said...

your fingger painting is nice
that great !!

Auto Parts

Kathy G said...

Your student's paintings are WAY better than anything I could have done!

Sammy said...

Marybeth - Have you or your collegues considered putting together a student art showing with the displays availble for sale? A portion of the proceeds could be pooled for a collective fund towards supplies. The showing logistics could be an incredible learning tool for these young people, and might even result in project commissions for the classes or individuals.

Bill Milhoan said...

Great stuff. I hope you don't mind. I printed the post out and hung it on my cubicle. It's good for the soul. It's also good for the folks here at CSU IST to remember that we're in a school!

As much as I love Photoshop, nothing beats getting messy.

Sammy said...

Hi Bill - It's good to see local members of the education community involved with each other!

Your comment about the folks at CSU IST reminds me of a few responses I've heards from other groups over the years. My response has always been: if the pep squad, cheeleading team, choir, and the rest of the groups can have fundraisers, why not the industrial arts club, the science club, or the debate team?

I've seen more than a few lightbulbs click on at that challenge! Folks begin to understand that ther are no nine-to five jobs in community activism...