The Baha'i Writings and the Child: A Research Website

Art Is an Essential Component

Editor’s Note

According to Principle One:

The researcher observes and studies the vital needs of the child and the manifestations of those vital needs according to the developmental stage of the child.

The below article notes the importance of the development and usage of the arts in the observation process. Consequently “the identification of fundamental concepts, skills and tools for expressing (oneself) through some medium in art” is an important component of this research project. The author of the below article is Phyllis Pottish-Lewis, a Montessori educator. It is taken from an article titled “Art: An Essential Component of Cosmic Education”, Communications 2009/2.

We have added the “pause symbols” between each paragraph to encourage meditation.

Perceptual skills, requirements for the execution of art, are enhanced by training, much in the same way as verbal, analytical skills benefit by education. Learning to draw or observe effectively trains the visual system, just as reading and writing effectively train the verbal system. Just as there is a body of knowledge to be learnt with reading and writing, so there is a body of knowledge in each domain of art that must be learnt, to prepare the child with the fundamental concepts, skills, and tools for expressing himself through some medium in art. In Montessori’s words, ‘The ability to see reality in form, in colour, in proportion, to be master of the movements of one’s own hand – that is what is necessary. Inspiration is an individual thing, and when a child possesses these formative elements he can give expression to all he happens to have.’ (AM Vol 2, p. 287)

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Preparation is essential. In fact, in the consideration of creativity and its progressive phases, preparation is the first step. In the case of visual art, artists must train their eyes by acquiring a knowledge of the basic elements and principles that pertain to this subject, as these guide the observations.   For the child this too is important, not just for the execution of art, but also for the recognition, understanding and appreciating of it.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 7.46.36 PMAlso, we must give the children the skills and techniques with different tools and media. And then, most important of all, we must leave them free to experiment and express their ideas and feelings when they are moved to create, using the basic knowledge we have supplied.

The basic art elements and principles along with skills and techniques, are building blocks lessons of art. By giving them these building blocks lessons, we help the children to fully understand consciously the essential components involved in creating a piece of art in some medium, and then to be able to manipulate ideas in their imaginations to devise original and unique expressions of who they are.

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Dr. Montessori writes in The Discovery of the Child, ‘We do not teach drawing by drawing, however, but by providing the opportunity to prepare the instruments of expression. This I consider to be a real aid to free drawing. To confer the gift of drawing we must create an eye that sees, a hand that obeys and a soul that feels.’ (AM, p. 289) The ‘instruments of expression’ of which she speaks are all of the above. This is a different approach to art than offering the children individual, finite projects, such as paper making or jewelry making, which by their very nature are limited in scope. When children know, understand and appreciate the elemental aspects of a given artist, art form or medium, they can extrapolate from their knowledge and be set free to create truly.

Note: Paper and jewelry making and other crafts have a valuable place when incorporated in to a meditation. However this would not be considered a general art response through which a child’s inner feelings can be explored.