Teaching of art to the adolescent must be done with tact. They should neither be treated as children, nor as adults. They require a very careful and subtle handling. They cannot be left totally to themselves as they require guidance. This is the age when they start learning perspective, technique, etc. and in a sense bid good-bye to the so-called—‘Child Art’. Yet what they draw or paint is far from what can be called mature work. It is indeed necessary that an artist with sympathetic nature be employed to help them out of their various problems. If they can concentrate on some sort of creative work they are saved from many emotional troubles which generally come in the wake of adolescence.
There is now no longer any question about the value of teaching of art in the school, but as to the right method of teaching the subject, there is till a considerable degree of controversy.
‘Give the material and let them be alone’ attitude is taken by many modem art teachers. It works well with very young children, but for adolescents, along with this freedom, it is necessary to have strong sympathetic hearts encouraging them, showing every now and then how they could express themselves in different ways and what a wide range of possibilities they have.
Children draw most readily when they have had a vivid experience which they wish to communicate, and they often enjoy doing it if unhampered by the imposition of the adult’s outlook and technique. But as a child grows, and passes through the adolescent period, he naturally comes across many statements about art which develop and mould his outlook and expression. Naturally, he cannot escape the artistic environment of his time and surrounding contemporary art. Therefore, its experiments, and the new modes of expression, cannot fail to exercise a very strong influence on the adolescent. Its relation to teaching of art is a difficult and delicate problem. We must allow him to grow with our environment and culture. He also should know his own heritage, tradition and cultural back ground. It cannot be discarded while teaching art in a school.
The question still remains—“should technique be taught?” Certainly. Help should be given when the need is felt, when it is asked for. Very often it is asked for and it is also really needed.
The duty of art masters in a school is not only to teach a few boys who are interested in art, but to create an interest in art in all the boys in the school. Appreciation of art is just as much a matter of careful training as the learning of art itself. And, also, it is well to remember that without possessing an instinctive sympathy for art no appreciation of art is possible. For this reason the art master in a school must possess a capacity for perfect sympathy, a quick sensibility to gauge, appreciate and respond at every step to the young artist’s struggle. For, though it is not expected that every boy will tum out artistic or skilled in a particular line, he should at least acquire a discernment of art, otherwise his education, falling short of a liberal one, will be incomplete.
It is desirable that in a school there should be a proper art department where different types of arts and crafts could be taught. If a boy is not good in a particular thing such as painting or drawing, he could do linocut or modelling or any other craft such as book-binding, leather work or pottery. To create broader interest in art among more boys in the school an Art Society may also be started. The function of the Art Society should be to organize talks on art, screening of pictures with a projector or epidiascope, and holding exhibitions of paintings by different artists, at least of prints of master-pieces of Indian and foreign works of Art. It is necessary to have a hall to organize such exhibitions and for collecting things of artistic value from different parts of the country, in which boys themselves will take active part.
I greatly doubt the usefulness of teaching art for the purpose of an examination. Art examination in many ways hampers real enthusiasm and craving of a boy should he have any aptitude for it. An exhibition, once or twice a year of what boys execute is a far better stimulus yielding infinitely more satisfactory results. What has art to do with scheduled tests? And assessing pictures by an allotment of marks is the most futile of attempts? How much more gratifying it is then, to hold exhibitions and allow the boys to carry selected pieces home at the end of each term? In my school, some of the boys often express their desire of offering art as an optional subject at the Cambridge examinations. At times, we allow boys to sit for such examinations, but I am determined in my resolve that, come what may, examinations must not be allowed to gain a foot-hold in the Art Department. And if a boy, more tenacious than the rest, persists in his ambition, I first make it clear that no special art classes for the examination will be arranged for him. For I can clearly foresee that if ever, by some unlucky chance, penmss1on is given for such extra work in the art class, the crowds of boys now flocking to its door will inevitably be converted into votaries at the shrines of examination-and need I add?—shaming the goddess of art into precipitate flight from the school.
It is heartening to note that with the achievement of freedom in India, the Education Ministry has focussed its attention on the importance of education in Art, and I hope, substantial and useful results will be achieved through this seminar. Only I want to say a word of caution so that we don’t become over-enthusiastic about what is popularly known as “Child Art”.
Already, I find, much harm is done by these so-called research-workers on Child Art. It is a rebound to the other extreme and much too much fuss is being made of what is genuine and what is Child Art. They have also now begun to implicate and insinuate the particular psychology of a child in his drawing, dragging in the influence not only of the art masters and parents but also a whole line of his ancestors. All over the world, they are now holding International Exhibitions of such child drawings and a fair amount of literature has also sprung up on the subject. This is welcome news indeed, but surely there is danger in overdoing everything.
Let the children paint and sketch spontaneously without being dragged into too many competitions or for the specific purpose of joining in these International Child Art Exhibitions I If such spontaneous drawing and sketching is encouraged in a child, free from competitive spirit, some closed shutters of his mind are bound to open, and that is what will be the child’s gain. It is in this enlarging, illuminating process that the teachers’ aid can be of incalculable benefit to the child, as also the teachers’ tasks may well be said to end there.
It is more or less on these lines that I practise art teaching. I teach without a rudder, oar, or compass of departmental syllabus, Other teachers come to me, loud with their enquiry: “Where is the syllabus?” to which I can give the only answer: “I have none to show, sir.” For I know it is all within me, what syllabus is required for which boys at a particular stage, and I plan accordingly. With deep concern they ask me what I do about class management. And again, I can only tell them that I suppose I must be just stumbling along somehow. May be, sometimes the boys drive me fairly mad but I have to bear all that. How can I make everybody work at the same thing? Art class is not like an arithmetic or geometry class where the problem of class management can be solved by setting a common exercise to all the boys.
Being an art teacher in a public school. what used to upset me, however, in the first few years in the school was that owing to too many extra-curricular activities and games such as cricket, boxing, etc. boys used to get very little time to come to the art school to do their spare time art work. Soon I realized that those boys who were genuinely interested in Art always managed to snatch some time by cutting their activities to come to the art school. Art masters have only to arouse interest and enthusiasm so that boys are inspired to go to the art school even in their spare time.
Now, coming back to the question of syllabus, I am aware of the fact that working in a Public School for a privileged set of boys, I am in a more advantageous position than art masters in the ordinary secondary high schools. In a day school with its large number of boys an art master can’t give much individual attention within a few class hours. Naturally, a certain type of syllabus is generally preferred to make the matter easy and systematic. But I am convinced that no set syllabus will do any good to the boys who are under twelve years of age. Boys above thirteen, however, may be given a certain amount of set work if the class is very big to manage.
Simple studies of leaves, flowers, birds or objects of every day use may be drawn from life in a sketch form in pencil. Such sketches may be utilized into original paintings or may be repeated and made as pattern designs and coloured with the boys’ own colour scheme. The theory of colour harmony and colour contrast may also be made known to the boys in this stage if necessary.
It is also necessary that when the boys have no idea or craving to paint original or object drawing, they may be asked to do freehand drawings to be made from prints available of paintings and sculptures of Ajanta, Ellora, Mughal miniatures, Kangra paintings, etc., in pencil lines. Studies of different parts of the human body such as head, hands and feet may be given special attention. As the boys get experienced they may attempt and compose pictures of difficult poses of human figures. Colouring may be left entirely to the discretion of the boys.