We spoke about what it means to experiment in art. We also talked about my favourite art topic "the artist brain." I love to remind my students about using their artist brain which is the same as their problem solving creative brain to come up with their own solutions. Too often I find kids who stump themselves by saying things like "I don't know what to do" or "I think I'm done!" or my least favourite "do you think this is good?" These questions indicate a lack of confidence and shows a reliance of how I -the teacher or adult in the room- think rather than trusting their own thought process.
The best thing art can do is encourage connections. The way I explain to the students the importance of them doing their own thinking and problem solving is:
I ask the kids to imagine going to the gym and lifting weights. If they lift heavy weights will their muscles get stronger? Of course. Now lets imagine them doing the motion of lifting those weights but some very strong weightlifter comes and actually lifts the weight for them. They are doing the motion but the weightlifter is doing the work. So who is getting stronger... the weightlifter.
The same thing happens when a student is stuck on an answer and appeals to me to "lift that weight for them." If I give them too much direction then their brains are no longer doing the work, mine is. And I already have my degree in Art, it's their turn to grow their brains. This is the same reason I greatly discourage shouting out in classes because if one kid is constantly shouting out the answer the rest of the class is no longer making connections and doing the work to solve the problem themselves.
The beauty of art is not in the "correct" answer it is in a genuine pursuit of understanding.
This project and story really help me establish this understanding in my classes early on. I encourage the students to experiment with the paints using wet in wet and wet in dry techniques to see how the colours interact with each other. We go through some of the experiments Vashti (the main character in our book) do such as negative space, colour mixing, large and small scale etc. The project is open enough that kids (even the nervous ones) can build confidence in making their own decisions and experiments.