James Watt has been teaching children the techniques of art for over 25 years. It all started at the Naperville Park District in 1994 and then went private four years later when parents asked for more classes than the children’s program at the Park District had available. James Watt, a commercial artist, had signed up to teach a cartooning class for children at the Park’s activity center. Within a year he was asked to take over all the children’s art classes.
Because he also has a love of mathematics, he hit on the idea of teaching art classes with the same logic used in Euclidean geometry. This logic builds up from the simple to the complex in an absolutely consistent manner, with no contradictions. Each theorem is dependent on those that went before. So the most important part of Geometry is actually the simple parts at the beginning. For, if these are wrong then all the complex constructions based on them are wrong, as well, and the whole thing comes tumbling down. Euclidean Geometry has stood the acid test of time. Today, over 2, 300 years after it was first written down, it is as good and pristine now, as it was back then. Euclidean Geometry and its expression of formal logic are actually the single greatest reason WHY we have a modern world. It is the basis of all science, philosophy, arts and law. Few things in human experience can claim that.
So the idea of teaching art in this Euclidean style was born. It had immediate beneficial effects on the students. They loved it and even more, they loved the fact that art wasn’t ‘some mysterious talent’, but simply the product of knowing what you want to do and how to do it. They learned that language is composed of words and that words which have no meaning are useless either to describe something to others or to figure out how to do something for yourself. ART STUDIO lessons begin with teaching that words are the TOOLS OF LOGIC and that they must be defined properly in order to function as tools of logic. If you don't know what a word actually means, what good, then, is the sentence or thought you find it in?! Once this was done, it became easy to teach children about all sorts of intricate things in art (and to show how they are related to mathematics as well).
It was because of this marriage of Euclidean method and art, that ART STUDIO has had such fantastic success with children. Every child can draw and paint. For years, we posted the art work of ALL students here on line because, “They could ALL draw and paint.” Once the process of logic and using words as tools is explained and practiced a few times, all the children can suddenly draw and paint. The problem with children who thought they ‘couldn’t draw or paint’ actually is that they can’t say what it is they wanted to do. Words were the problem. Once they could say what they wanted to do, the log jam was broken.
Parents have loved ART STUDIO as well. Often children take refuge from school math in school art, where they think there ‘is no math’. It is not uncommon for some beginning students here at ART STUDIO to say this. When they go through the first couple of sessions (Basic Drawing I and II) here, they learn critical missing information that suddenly makes all the math they are learning in school also ‘make sense’. I can honestly say that I know of no children who entered ART STUDIO hating math or doing poorly at it, who didn’t become proficient at it in later grades because of what was taught here. This is why I say that ART, if properly taught, IS THE NUMBER ONE METHOD OF TEACHING BEGINNING LOGIC TO CHILDREN!!
What I have found out while teaching these classes is that both art and math are often the most poorly taught subjects in schools. BOTH subjects get taught as a hodge-podge of often disconnected rules. The teachers, themselves, often don’t know what the fundamental basis for either art or math is and would probably be surprised to hear they are actually connected! This is clear from the oft heard falsehood that ‘arts are not critical to education’. That is true....IF you are not showing the foundations of art and math! It is NOT TRUE, however, if you are aiming to teach children to think for themselves. As we all know, teaching children how to think critically for themselves, to gain trust in their sense of judgement and to acquaint them with those in history who advanced or sought to destroy mankind’s progress are the only genuine reasons education exists in Civilization.
Finally, I would like to observe that ‘all children draw’. Parents are amazed when their toddlers start drawing on the walls at home. Drawing is actually a natural part of ‘being a human’, just as talking is. Toddlers draw because their brains are using drawings to take the abstract forms in their head and make them more concrete through the actions of their physical senses. It is the process of trying and learning to clarify what they are thinking about.
For instance, a little kid’s first drawing of a dinosaur or a horse is usually unrecognizable. But, as the child learns more and more about the dinosaur or horse, they start adding more detail of ‘what they know’ into the drawing. The drawing is a roster of items they like about the dinosaur or horse. As we all know, historically, writing comes directly from drawing. Adults make lists of things....children make drawings. Drawing is utterly natural to being a human being. It shouldn’t surprise an adult that children draw. Art is the fundamental skill of human awareness which gives rise to ‘all other endeavors’. Someone who says that art is not important to an education doesn’t know what they are talking about. Or, perhaps they are referring to those educational regimes where know-nothing instructors tell children ‘there are no rules, be free, be creative and color outside the lines’. What those people are teaching is not art. They are teaching sophistry and demotivation.