« PreviousContinue »
The exhibit of the Chicago Kindergarten Training School, as shown in Armory Hall, is one step in the above direction. It is open, as all growing things are, to criticisms, and is offered to the public in the sure faith that only the absolutely fit and true can survive; for the period of selection which must sooner or later characterize our American education is fast approaching, and will try all things as by fire.
NORMAL-SCHOOL WORK IN DRAWING.
JOHNSON CARTER, NEW YORK CITY.
There can be no broad, substantial foundation for art education until the regular teachers in the public schools are sufficiently acquainted with the subject to give the instruction; and it is to the normal schools that the public schools must look for the preparation of these regular teachers. The great trouble at the present time in normal schools is that students come to such schools with little or no knowledge of drawing, and therefore in a very different condition for taking up this study than for any other of the common branches; consequently we have to take time which should be devoted to methods of teaching, to training in technique. This, I apprehend, will continue to be the situation until drawing becomes, as it has in some places, one of the important studies, instead of being badly taught and sometimes barely tolerated.
From the outset, the course of instruction both in method and technique should consider the practical needs and possibilities of the public schools today; and, while a high ideal should be kept constantly in mind, the essentials should be looked after, and the work made sufficiently practical to meet existing conditions. Certainly in city schools the classes are often too large for the greatest advantage to the individual; teachers are forced to give class exercises, and it takes tact and skill to guide any individual and separate him from the mass. The materials used, therefore, should be of a character possible for the public school to obtain and to use, while the methods taught should be practically applied and carried out in a model school, which should be the necessary adjunct of every well-appointed normal school.
All good instruction in drawing in the common schools is now based upon the study of form, through the use of the typical form solids. Then follows the relation of natural forms and common objects to such type solids, through the observation of the child by handling and seeing. This requires that models and objects should be studied by each pupil individually; that is, he must study the object by personal contact with it through the primal senses of touch and sight. As we develop through the senses, we also train the
sense of color by the use of different materials and mediums, and also help to the understanding of form by the use of clay-modeling. The normal-school student should study the laws of psychology and the science of education; the necessity for strong fundamental training in psychology, as a basis for normal training, I can only emphasize. Not until a teacher understands the nature of form-study and drawing in mental development can she teach them properly to children. You know it is a bit of sophistry which some persons still cling to, that drawing should not be taught until the will can guide the fingers with care and precision. I am sure from my own experience with children, that this is a fatal error to all freedom and artistic expression. The one objection which has been hurled at those of us who strive for the artistic development of the children of this country is, "The public school is no place to make an artist"; and one can always answer, "Neither is it the place to spoil one." The old neglect of the young child when his thoughts and feelings in drawing were punished rather than encouraged, and the rigid training to copy exactly the, to him, meaningless figure, cramped the hand, dulled the senses, and produced the poorest results.
It is a favorite objection to clay-modeling in the primary school, that children when it is time for them to attend school should leave all play behind them; that children know much more than they are given credit for, and so do not need sense-training; while some, on the other hand, wax sentimental over the cruelty to children of teaching them the qualities and activities of geometric solids. To one and all we may say: See to it that your methods are in accordance with the development of the child's mind; in brief, study the child! Do we not see in the kindergarten, in the very young child, how the mind may grow and expand with well-regulated play and healthful action? —and must all this be put aside when the door of the primary school opens and he enters in? We preach self-discipline, and yet this can only be gained slowly, as all good things come, through growth. The thoughtful teacher will so combine the teaching of form with sense-training that the one shall help the other. By such methods children may drink in the very essence of all good things and yet be happy, free, natural, never forced, crammed, or overstrained. We must remember that the early years in school should be mainly devoted to observation; and that correct expression in different lines, while sought for and desired, should not be expected before clear and definite concepts are formed. Children will say anything they think the teacher wants them to say, and a bright, ambitious child will try to go beyond his powers if there is the least undue pressure. Such points, then, as these, we ought to impress upon the students in a normal school:
First: That the study of form should precede the drawing, and that the child should be trained from the first days of school-life, and the training should be according to the laws of psychological development.
Second: It is utterly useless to teach form-study and drawing in public schools without suitable models in the hands of every pupil. Accordingly,
every student in a normal school should possess models, and not be simply talked to about them. These models should be studied in their order, with special reference to developing ideas of beauty and fitness to purpose.
Third: Clay-modeling is such an important factor in the study of form, that a good course with this medium should be given. I have found the following order of clay-work adapted to the children of our model school, and also to the college students. First, the modeling of the geometric solids and natural objects based upon such forms; then the building of a simple tile, or base, for relief, with perhaps some elementary figure in design, as concentric squares and central boss, a four-pointed star, or any simple figure which has been folded or cut in paper. The early work having been entirely in the round as better suited to the capacity of the child and nearer to the base forms, after the building of a tile is accomplished it seems desirable that all later work for some time shall be in relief, and always built upon the background, never modeled and stuck on. Vegetable and fruit forms, animal, both natural and grotesque, and finally, historic ornament, leaves, or large decorative flowers from nature. The human face it is dangerous to give, as it necessitates training in anatomy. The nose or eyes of an animal slightly out of position does not produce the same deplorable effect as similarly bad modeling from the cast of the human face. In the selection of casts, broad, simple treatment is preferable to the more intricate. The cast-marks should be left on and the surface never smoothed with sand-paper. We aim at unity of parts and breadth of effect. Some of the leading artists in studio-teaching have discarded the well-known eye, ear, and nose as separate casts, and require that all modeling or drawing of a face shall be from the whole, with the consequent relation of parts.
In the same way that we now base the teaching of drawing upon the study of form, and we teach form, beginning with the whole, and then the parts, so there is a difference in the present method of technical training. Drawing being a means of thought-expression, instruction should not be given in the abstract way of working from point to line, and so on, but rather from ideas of objects as wholes, and through the training of the pupils to expression of their own ideas in their own way; basing the instruction, not primarily upon the training of the fingers, but rather the training for ideas in the study of things, and then bringing the fingers, by practice, into skillful ways of expression. We drill for free movement, and strive to get a light, yet bold touch, transparent and artistic gray lines. Movement in the direction of the line to be drawn precedes the drawing. The method is an excellent preface to the advanced work, as it leads to free, broad handling, and technical excellence.
When the nature of form-study and its relation to drawing has been presented, the development of form-study and drawing into the three subjects of construction, representation, and decoration should follow, and normal students should be particularly instructed in regard to the distinctive features
of these three subjects, and also in regard to their interrelation with one another. The relation and unity of all departments of æsthetic culture should be made clear, and we should strike a blow to that modern error that industrial art and fine art are absolutely distinct, and must always be so. In the past, the artist was often an artisan, and the artisan an artist. True beauty and real art entered into common things; and we shall only regain our lost birthright when we return to the same condition of things.
An orderly and satisfactory course of study in a normal school may begin with methods and practice suitable to the little ones, and carry the work right along in much the same order it would be given to children, interspersing such suggestions and exercises which, while not essential to the course, may be advantageous to the students either as practical suggestions or practice in technique. From time to time examinations may be given, or rapid oral questioning on the work passed over; and unless the students have practice in teaching in other studies, no one should be allowed to leave the school without having taught a class of children. Indeed, the normal instructor should employ any and all aids that may help to the best understanding of the subject. As during the past ten years a number of well-trained and experienced teachers have embodied the results of their knowledge and practical experience in manuals and text-books, it is a great service to the normal-school students to make them acquainted with these manuals and text-books; and as the kindergarten and manual-training movements are coming into education as permanent features, the drawing instruction in normal schools should be in sympathy with these two movements.
It is desirable that normal students shall study not only the theory of color, but have sufficient practice in combining different hues, tints, and shades, until certainly what not to do in teaching the subject is well understood. There seems to be no greater fallacy than the idea sometimes advanced, that children may combine colors into hideous and utterly inartistic arrangements because they like to do so: as well allow them to eat unwholesome food on such a principle, or read pernicious books. In the same way that drawing needs to be taught by systematic methods, one step following another in orderly and educational sequence, so should the study of color be carefully guided by the teacher, that the aesthetic and artistic development may never be lost sight of.
The highest aim I conceive to be in the teaching of this subject of art education is the rounded development of the child; the uplifting of the soul to better things; the refinement of the national taste. We can accomplish this only by the highest motives and through the patient encouragement of thought-expression in all the work of the pupils, from the tiny child to the last years in school. With this aim we cannot be content with the development of simply imitative power; but by stimulating the imagination and developing thought in every stage we should aim to have the expression of thought always visible. This method is radically different from the old way
of drilling on lines, lines, lines. Technical skill may come slowly, but the artistic quality which comes through the imagination, and freedom in drawing, will well repay the patient training. Different means may be employed to secure this artistic breadth: the use of colored papers in decorative design, beginning with the elementary work and carrying it far enough to gain skill of hand and nicety of arrangement, is an admirable feature for hand-training, while it overcomes the tendency to create only a meaningless combination of lines which so often passes for a design, when abstract teaching is wholly adhered to. I have some examples of this kind of work from my own normal students. I do not show them as examples to be admired, but as a fair showing of average work under ordinary conditions, with very little time at disposal, and little or no previous training on the part of the students. The sheets of historic ornament are enlarged from copy; the colors taken from the best authorities-the Egyptian, from mummy-cases. Such work is preceded by lectures on the subject, and pupils are referred to books and museums for further study and information.
While it seems best to build our method of elementary teaching almost wholly on the study of the object, it is nevertheless of great value to the students to be able to copy skillfully from the flat, to enlarge correctly, and to handle water-colors in a wet, free, and artistic manner. For light and shade, charcoal seems to be the best medium; and the first exercise is the blocking of the whole in a very angular way. When the study is to be purely outline, then the greatest expression is given in the fewest possible lines; every stroke having a meaning and showing some relation to the others. In light and shade we study the mass before detail; hence drawing in two or three planes is required before the student is considered ready to render a complete effect in full values.
Thus far I have spoken on some things it is desirable to do in the training of students in our normal schools under existing conditions, and have shown some work which has been done under the same conditions. May I call your attention for a few moments to some of the things it would be well not to do? The matter of teaching color is agitating those interested in educational matters at the present time, and from the artist's standpoint may we not comtemplate existing dangers?
First, I think too great stress is often laid upon the theory of color, and the symbolism of color. Are not all educational theories of value just so far as we make them subservient to our purpose, which is the mental and æsthetic development of the individual? Because according to a theory that certain colors enhance each other, which is unquestionably of value when employed by a master, shall we dazzle the eyes and perhaps vitiate the æsthetic taste of all the children by harsh and crude combinations made according to this theory by persons without æsthetic training? Children enjoy bright colors and they should have them, but their combinations should not be left to ran