This post is the fourth in our bi-weekly series, Exploring Reggio, which we are presenting together with The Imagination Tree, An Everyday Story, Twodaloo and Learn With Play at Home. You can read our introductory post here, which explains our aims for the series. So far we have discussed mirror play and playful literacy. This week we are focusing on Reggio art exploration.
Art and the Reggio Emilia Approach
Art is central the the Reggio Emilia approach. One of the things that excited me when I watched that first video about Reggio was the beautiful ateliers in the Reggio schools. Beautiful authentic materials are readily available at all times, and there is a recognition that art is a way for children to learn, discover and give meaning to the world around them.
Obviously we don’t have the space or the means to have an atelier in our home. Instead, we make art materials available at all times and in several different spaces throughout our home. Most of our art supplies like paint, clay, glue and recycled materials like egg cartons, bottle lids etc are kept in an area of our study -always accessible and ready to be used. A wall in our kitchen is painted with chalkboard paint and R is free to draw and write on it as he pleases. Coloured markers, paper and crayons are available in our living room. Outside in our backyard we have sidewalk chalk and an easel with paint supplies always on hand. We are also planning to add an outdoor chalkboard to the back fence this Summer.
One of R’s favourite ways to explore art is through “big” art. I simply roll out some paper the full length of our kitchen floor and away he goes. We have been doing this since R was about two years old (he is now 5). It remains a favourite for him because it is so kinetic (and he is a kinetic learner). With big art, he stands, he walks, he moves up and down the length of the room. The photos below document one such session, which took place last August. These photos are not up to my usual standard, so please forgive the quality. They were taken on my iphone on the spur of the moment. I wasn’t intending to take photos that day but it was such an exciting session that I had to take a few snaps and I am so glad that I did.
Before he even put paint to paper, R squeezed a whole lot of black paint into the bottle of water that I had provided for rinsing his brushes. He was exploring the materials and creating his own water colour paint, which he proceeded to brush, then splatter, across the paper. This was actually the only time in the entire creative session that he used a brush. After this it was all finger painting and squeezing paint directly out of the tubes.
There was so much excitement and energy during this particular session. I was interested to observe that he was very purposeful with his mark making. Although it may appear to be random splatters and blobs across the paper, he was very specific about what he was doing, and he provided a running commentary the entire time (as he always does when he is painting) about what he was doing. We have been studying Kandinsky recently, and R has been describing his paintings as “complicated”. In the photo above, R was saying “I am making a Kandinsky and it needs to be very complicated.”
After splattering black and red paint across the length of the paper, he began drawing with the oil pastels. He chose a red that matched the paint and began telling a story as he drew. He said that his painting was actually created by artists “long, long ago” and it was so complicated that the artists who drew it didn’t know what it was. As he explored the paint and oil pastels together, he was excited to see the effect of dragging the oil pastel through the large puddles of wet paint.
His story continued throughout the whole process. As he drew this section he said “A sea snake climbed on to a rock”.
The painting evolved into something new every few minutes. It was kind of thrilling to watch. R was so focused with such a strong intent about what he was doing.
At this point he said “Look what the red and black do together. First we cover it over and then we paint a new picture in this part.” After which he began drawing in the paint and telling new stories. It was almost as though he had all these stories inside him but no way to get them out since he is not yet able to write. This art exploration gave him a way to express those stories.
I am so glad that I took photos of the painting as it morphed from one stage to the next. I love this section below and it only lasted a few minutes before it was covered entirely in black to make new stories. This was all about process not product. He didn’t care one bit that what he was creating was transient, lasting only a few minutes before being covered up and changed into something else. For him it was about the story telling, not the finished piece of art.
Be sure to visit my wonderful co-hosts in our Exploring Reggio series to see their posts on Reggio art exploration.
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