Creative Arts Portfolio

In our Creative Arts class this semester, we were given the task of compiling a portfolio of inspiration, and the hands-on art activities we participated in during class in our small groups.
The purpose of this portfolio was to archive and document our artistic expression, keep record of arts activities, and make concrete the theory we were exploring over the course of the readings, discussions and lectures. This was to become a resource for ourselves, and potentially other early childhood educators.
In our learning pods, we supported each other and worked together to develop not only visual arts skills, but also teaching skills. 
Connecting the theory and practice through the hands-on activities was a brilliant part of this course - exploring different media and forms of expression was a really engaging and fun way to make ideas meaningful.

Our first hands-on activity was a collaborative plasticine scene. We created a peace march of diverse character who had decided to emphasize peace in their lives. In working together, the four members of our pod were mirroring elements of what we were trying to represent - flexibility, collaboration and diverse ideas and images working together. This exploration grew out of our unpacking the ideas of creativity and creative thinking, and was a response to a series of "what would...what if..." questions, posed to challenge us to think in different directions than we are accustomed to - creatively.
We chose to respond to "What if we had peace instead of war and violence?" and "What if we had love and friendship instead of gangs and hate?"


Our second hands-on activity - exploring mark-making by drawing with pastels - grew out of unpacking children's rights and the ideas of the right to play, the right to have creative experiences, and what some multimodal arts experiences that young children in early learning contexts could participate in. We know that play is crucial to development, and that it manifests in many ways. Drawing and making marks are a pretty universal form of play, so we began with it. We used pastels and explored the many ways they can be employed to leave expressive traces.


Our third activity was a collage activity. This week we talked about how art enhances and supports children's development. The interconnecting domains of development are all engaged by creative activity, and development seems to build upon itself, in something similar to a layering process. We talked about how creativity developed with age and experience, another layering. I made a collage that built itself up in layers, where parts of the over-layer were opened up to expose the ones underneath in an attempt to model the way experiences build on top of each other, creating new associations that lead to new meaning.


We painted to music in our fourth hands-on activity - Nina Simone's  Sinner Man. It is a long piece that goes through many transformations - reflecting well the subject that we worked with this week, which was aesthetics. Slippery aesthetics - how do you teach what beauty is?
We were invited to ask ourselves how the music made us feel and where the music took us, and express that with the paint. 


Our fifth activity was an art critique. We were each given a pair of cards, featuring an artist and a reproduction of one of their works. We were to answer the following questions as part of our critique:
1. What is it? Describe it?
2. What do you see when you look at the work of art?
3. What is the artist trying to say or tell you?
4. How does it make you feel?
5. Do you like it? What do you like or not like about it?
6. Why do you think a particular segment of he painting was highlighted?

We were given cards dealing with The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dali

This was our critique:
This is a surrealist oil painting, depicting a landscape inhabited by droppy clocks. In the "background" is a cliff dropping off into water - in the upper right hand corner. In the lower left, the "foreground", is a ledge that mirrors the cliff, out of which protrudes a dead tree, and off of whcih slides one of the droopy clocks. Another clock, an orange pocket watch, where the numbers and hands have been replaced by ants, also sits on the ledge. At the centre of the painitng in a field of brown darkness lies a shape that could be a figoure or a face, over which another clock is draped. The final clock in the painting hangs limply from the one branch left on the dead tree.
I feel like the artist is commenting on the elasticity and sometime slackness of time - how time is subjective - and how time can feel overlayed on top of people or natural forms. Time marches on, as ants do - referring to the inevitability of time. The dead tree could be a comment on how time leads to death. All the open space around the clocks/pocketwatches could be about how time is constructed, but not part of the world.
The title of the piece "The persistence of Memory" links time with memory - the clocks could be memories, frozen in time, elastic and lacking in vigour, but haunting and influencing the landscape the the central figure in the painting, who could be a rememberer...
I like the openeness of this painting, and the way that the artist played with background and foreground and how they blend with each other. I feel significant and insignificant, amused and bewildered by this painting. I enjoy the game!
The area highlighted could be a comment on the contrasting aspects of time - droopy=elastic, marching=inevitable. Memory and time and death, haunting each other and intertwined.


I was absent for most of the class, helping to organize the visit from the University of Urawa, the day we worked on our sixth hands-on activity. We were given the task of creating a mixed-media representation of our creative selves in a kind of self-portrait. Due to my limited amount of time - I created a self-portrait in fragments - hands and feet in pastel and pencil - referring to two parts of my body that have been very active creatively in my past. I have felt in the past that my creativity was very separate from the rest of my life, and these days fell more like it is woven into all aspects of everything around me and everything I do. It feels a lot more holistic.


I was with the visitors from Urawa, and missed class completely on the day we were assigned this hands-on task. An exploration of photography and portraiture, we were asked to take a photo of a person, and attempt to capture that subjects disposition.
Salil is the one-year-old I am fortunate enough to live with. He's just turned one, and is learning all kinds of things - this portrait shows his sweet tempered, inquisitive nature.

His parents asked me to not have his photo up on the Internet for to long, so it's off now, too bad if you didn't see it because he's so cute! Thanks Shelly and Tuval for letting me use his photo!!


Our eighth hands-on activity was given to us by a guest professor, Dr. Kimberly Bezaire, who taught the other two sections of the creative arts course to our cohort. Kimberly's done research into multiple literacies and children and technology, and was an apt guest lecturer as we were talking about technology and art education. Our "talking head" was good practice in sculpture and compostion, and reframed "technology" for us. Plasticine is a technology, books at one point were very advanced technology - looking at the tools we use and how they help us shape meaning is a huge part of the underlying work we need to do when working as educators.


I loved how this lecture captured a lot of ways of how the arts really touch upon so many aspects of curriculum. These points are from our lectures notes:
  • Art & Math – children quantify as they create
  • Art & Science – help children discover scientific principles
  • Art and the Language/Communication Arts – opportunity to represent what children know nonverbally, role of symbol makers
  • Art and Social Studies – an element of culture, identity
  • Anti-bias Curriculum – social justice, challenge prejudice, stereotyping, provides more of an inclusive education
We worked collaboratively with a whole other pod of four people to construct this playdough landscape, from scratch - including the playdough itself.
The bright pink reminded me of the way some clouds catch the light in sunset, and the whole group liked that idea, so we went for it and came up with this. Each of our hands helped make it, shape it, influenced it in many ways. And it was fun!


We had definitely explored colour and textures before in our activities in the course, but never quite in this manner. We made shaving cream paintings, by mixing equal amounts of white glue and shaving cream with food colouring (although I hear you can use tempera paint too, and I bet that'd be easier to clean up with kids).
This was our final class, and we discussed something i wish that we'd talked about earlier in the course - what are the roles, responses and strategies that a teacher can use to support children's art.
Our text for the course, Art & Creative Development for Young Children by Robert Schirrmacher and Jill Englebright Fox, had some pretty useful things that I want to copy and put up in every creative arts area...

Questions to ask when working as Teacher as Observer - 
1. What is it made of?
2. What does the observer see?
3. What does is represent?
4. How is it organized?
5. What is it about, what is the nature of the involvement?
6. Where does the idea come from?

Strategies recommended when talking with children engaged in art activities - 
  • Describe what you see -
  • Talk about children's actions -
  • Ask children about the process -
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage children to think and respond - 
  • Use words to encourage and support children's efforts -
10 artistic elements that make up a kind of art language, to use with children when talking about and making art - 
mass or volume
overall design or composition
time and effort

Things teachers can also say - " I like the way you...
  • are working so hard."
  • are being so creative."
  • are trying to come up with your very own idea."
  • are not giving up."
  • are trying new ways."
  • are putting things away."
  • are sharing at the art centre."
I feel like this portfolio assignment was really rewarding, trying to tie all the practical activities into the readings, discussions and lectures in this course. Participating in this course was a really positive experience for me - having worked as an artist and an arts educator, now having so much developmental information will now deepen and enrich all of my teaching.

References -

The pocket oxford dictionary of current english.(1984). In Allen. R.E. (Ed.), (7th ed. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 

Schirrmacher, R. (2009). In Fox J.E. (Ed.), Art & creative development for young children (6th ed. ed.) Clifton Park, NY: Thomson/Delmar Learning.


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