A few weeks ago, I took my child to university. Along with the clothes, the books and an inexplicable number of charging cables, Rio also took a sewing machine and several very large boxes full of threads, material, crafting paper, pens, pencils, paints and brushes. When I suggested that these weren’t all strictly necessary to read Psychology or Law, I was met with – “But they’re what makes my room feel like home. They make me happy.” To which, of course, there is no riposte.
More recently, at the Open Morning, a visiting pupil told me that she didn’t really like Art and, when I asked her if she found it tricky, nodded almost apologetically. I empathise… at school I was told I was no good at art and consequently hated it. I scheduled all my violin lessons to coincide with Art and gave it up as a subject the moment I was able. And there I remained for a long time – content to let music and poetry absorb every creative aspect of my life, and believing that art just wasn’t destined to by ‘my thing’.
It wasn’t until I came to work at the High School that I started to appreciate that there was so much more to art than being able to sketch a realistic apple. Working with Mrs Stock, I developed an understanding of, and respect for, the works of more contemporary artists. She taught me to find beauty in the angles of Modigliani’s portraits and poetry within the Great Waves of Hokusai. Her love for art was infectious and the confidence she inspired in lessons meant that even the most art-shy of students created something they were proud of.
Since then, my love of art has developed and, much like my ability to comment on the ‘Strictly’ dances each Saturday, I can wander around an art gallery and critique the pieces. This afternoon I popped into the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge with my brother, and spent a very happy hour discussing the merits of the Monet seascapes on display, the colours chosen by Hockney, and the fact the snowy landscape Pissarro painted reminded us of our childhood home. We were happy; engaged and thoughtful, but above all, happy.
When I think about art in school I hope, more than anything, that the girls find joy in their Art lessons. Being ‘good at art’ is subjective – my brother and I really didn’t think much of the Matisse – so enjoy it. In the art world, being different isn’t ‘wrong’ – it is a wonderful combination of observation, imagination, variety and creativity. Whatever you draw, whatever you paint, whatever you create, it’s your art to love, yours to criticise and yours to share.
Year 5 Class Teacher