We talked about Process over Product in our last blog post, what it means, why we care, and why it makes a HUGE difference in your child's education (head over there if you haven't already!).
But now we want to show you what Process over Product looks like IN ACTION (aka in our classes).
To briefly summarize key points in our education philosophy, valuing process over product means we believe in taking time to learn and practice techniques and skills before worrying about producing a perfect product.
It also means your student will not be drawing one landscape before we declare they are done with landscapes and never need to draw one again. As they gain more skills and move through our classes and programs, we teach them more techniques that can be used to create a more realistic landscapes, they have more time to practice values and perspective and slowly, their landscape drawings will improve.
So when you hear your child is drawing *another* landscape or portrait, that means they are getting another chance to build on their skills and learn and practice more, NOT that they're just doing something that they've already done before.
You wouldn't expect your basketball player to shoot and make one basket and call themselves "done'. You'd encourage them to keep practicing over and over until they've honed their skills.
Let's take a look at a simple portrait as created in each age-grouping of our classes to show the progression of skills and techniques as students learn and age. We'll also briefly discuss the skills that are introduced and focused on in each age-appropriate level.
When we've run classes for this age group in the past, we mainly focus on an introduction to art materials, and focus on emotions and color. When drawing portraits, we discuss basic facial features.
In our Intro to Art class for ages 4-5, we continue to introduce art materials and what they are used for. In this class, we begin to use simple shapes to draw facial features and begin discussion of facial proportions.
In this age group, we continue to have students practice utilizing simple geometric shapes to create facial features and continue developing an understanding of proportions on the face. We begin a slight introduction of shadows and students being associating art history with art techniques.
Using a photograph foundation, students being to thoroughly explore the form of the face by using light and shadow in this age group. A photograph foundation allows students to not be overwhelmed, and to be able to put their attention into the lessons we want them to focus on as we introduce how facial features move to show emotion and how to capture that in our drawings. Students will also begin replicating historical processes with a more in-depth understanding.
Returning to a photographic reference, students further their understanding of the face by using a variety of values to establish a realistic portrait. Students begin to use value (light and shadow) instead of line to define facial features. By now, students' more in-depth understanding of art history helps us to teach them how to apply that knowledge to further their learning.
At this point in our classes, students begin to develop their own project ideas while still functioning within a visual art principle. Students use value to define facial features, and consistently use measuring to define proportion. Students also begin to explore manipulating the elements of design to express their own artistic style.
In all of our classes, we emphasize the importance of practice and effort over the importance of the look of the finished product.
Some students have a natural tendency towards art and drawing, and others have to work harder to produce the same results, but by emphasizing process, we want to make sure each of our students is working hard and pushing themselves, not to achieve a certain set result, but to achieve the best of what they can personally do.
Take a look at our class options here and find one that's right for your child.
We say at Museo Art Academy that we value process over product, and in fact it’s a pillar of our education philosophy, but what exactly does that mean?
Boiled down, it means that your 6-year-old is probably not going to leave our studio with a work of art that looks like Van Gogh rose out of his grave in France to paint it. Instead, it will look like it was painted by your 6-year-old, BUT WAIT! That’s a good thing.
So before you get disappointed that your first grader's art will, in fact, end up looking like a first grader's art (and when you’re paying for art classes, no less!), let’s discuss why, from a developmental and educational standpoint, that this is exactly what you want out of your child’s art education experience.
What is process and what is product?
Process is the way a thing is accomplished and what is learned along the way. When we’re children, process is everything: it’s the way we tell long, imaginative stories with no main point to our parents, it’s how we ride our bike a few feet before falling, dusting off, and trying again; it’s finger painting to squish the paint between our fingers as we glide the paint around the page, watching the colors mix in different ways.
However, by the time we become adults, product becomes king. Product is the end result of efforts. Product is receiving an A on the tough test, it’s getting the diploma, the job, the promotion. It’s meeting a goal, getting an award, earning a title.
How does this apply to art classes?
Product-oriented art would start with an expectation to create something specific that’s envisioned by an adult with specific steps, such as handing a child pompoms, pipe cleaners, googly-eyes and a popsicle stick with the expectation that the child would follow directions to create a caterpillar. Or, another example, would be paint-by-color project where the instructor told the students to use the “correct” colors to fill in the spaces.
In these examples, students aren’t needing to utilize their creativity, or problem-solving skills; instead they’re practicing other types of skills like direction following and hand-eye coordination, which are good things, of course, but they’re not delivering all that could be gained from an art class.
Instead, in process-oriented art, we care more about HOW a child gets to the end result than the end result itself.
This doesn’t mean that we won’t have an envisioned end goal for the project we’re teaching, but it means our focus isn’t whether your child comes home with perfect drawings or a perfect replica of our project example.
We care what techniques were learned and used properly, we care that your child made choices on what they wanted their art look like, we care that your child understands art elements & design principles and how to apply them in their art work, we care that your child understands art movements in history and the relevance they play in today’s understanding of art, we care that your child uses and develops curiosity, creativity, imagination, problem-solving, and innovative thinking.
If at the end of the project and your child has accomplished these things, we count it as a success.
If at the end of the project their still-life pepper they drew and painted isn’t yet Vermeer-worthy, we don’t feel as though we or they have failed; we know they have many, many years of perfecting their skills and techniques to get to the place where they are near that level. Master artists didn’t get to where they are by taking one month of art classes, they got to where they are by putting time and dedication into learning and perfecting their art.
"A" (should actually be) for Effort – the dangers of focusing on product
Getting that A on the test is great, but when the focus is on the product, we often forget the amount of hard work that goes into accomplishing the goal – the late nights, early mornings, and weeks of studying instead of going out with friends or sleeping in.
When we emphasize the product, we downplay the necessity for the hard work and are more likely to conclude that the person who got the A, or won the Nobel Peace Prize is just “really smart” or “really talented”.
In art, when we focus on the importance of the end product, those who are just beginning may get frustrated that their work doesn’t magically look like the instructor’s example and give up, thinking they “aren’t good at art”.
Focusing on product encourages us to say, “well I’m not as smart as she is, so I probably couldn’t get an A on this test” instead of “if I work hard, I could maybe get an A this time”.
We’re not the only ones advocating for process over product
In Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit”, she explains her research on how those who succeed in life aren’t necessarily the most talented or the smartest individuals, but they are the ones who are willing to persist and to work hard.
But how can we cultivate children to have grit?
Educators are now learning that one of the ways we can “train” grit and work ethic into students is by complimenting a child’s effort instead of the their finished product or their intelligence. When children are told they are “so smart" all the time, when a problem comes up that they don’t know how to handle, instead of thinking, I’m so smart I’ll figure this out, they instead conclude, “I don’t know this, so I must not be smart”, and give up.
By complimenting the effort put into a task, students learn that it’s not what they ARE (smart/not smart, talented/not talented), but what they DO that matters.
So your child is going to come home from our classes with artwork that looks like they did their own work, not like our instructors painted it for them.
But they’re also hopefully going to come home feeling that they are learning and improving and are being given the skills that will help them become better artists and with knowledge that if they work hard enough on those skills, they can be as good as they want to be. And that, for us, is to have succeeded.
And what does process look like in our art classes? Check out this blog post which will show you what process looks like IN ACTION!
But in the meantime, what are your thoughts on process vs. product? We'd love to hear them, so drop us a comment!
Sharing our love of art education, one post at a time.