Slow Art Wins a Round

When I dragged the third load in from the car, I regretted, for a moment, that I did not make kit packets for everyone in class. It would be easier if I made a sample to follow, cut out all the papers, choose three colors to use and teach the class that way. That would have made one trip possible.


But following a sample, and assembling a tiny journal from a kit would not support creativity, would not allow experimentation and discovery. So I cheerfully hauled in papers, threads, paints, inks, buttons, screws, nuts and the rest of the choices.

It was a gratifying class. Colors flew, participants mixed inks and paints, used new tools and created wonderful journals of their own making. It was real creative work. The pieces they made were truly the work of their own hands.

About three years ago, I said slow art–creativity without kits, a class without a sample to follow, results that varied with each person–was my goal. I would not make kits, I would not encourage people to copy a sample and strive for perfection and speed.

Tag3I know why teachers do the kit class. It’s much more practical and easier. It’s a bit more work up front, but it guarantees success (everyone makes a perfect project), and you limit what you have to bring into the classroom. Plop a packet in front of each person and it’s done. Not so much set up. Less clean-up.

For me, it’s not a class. For the participants, it’s freeing not to have to race against the clock to create a perfect replica of the teacher’s sample. It helps people get in touch with what they want to learn, what ideas they want to work with. It’s so much more satisfying than duplicating a sample.

Not every page was successful, but each was satisfying. Participants learned now to fix mistakes and clear up color choices. And I did not mind in the least carting out all the equipment it takes to teach a class without kits. It’s a much richer teaching experience. It looks like it works–great results, and my car is big enough after all.

Congratulations to Kimberly Santini, who won the Gold Sumi-e Watercolor in the cute ceramic dish! Can’t wait to see what she does with it!

-Quinn McDonald is a teacher of writing and creativity.