Friday, May 10, 2019

Process Art: The Journey, Not the Destination

Does your arts and crafts program need a makeover? There is absolutely value, for all ages, in following directions to create a piece with one's own hands that looks exactly like it's supposed to. There is also value in the act of creation, experimenting with new media, practicing with new tools, and not worrying about the end product. Enter process art.

What Is It, and Why Do It?

The idea with Process Art is to enjoy the act of creation of art, and not just focus on the end result. 

Many times, we get bogged down in the way things are "supposed to be," instead of discovering what they could be. You need to paint with a brush. Every snowman needs 3 circles of paper and one orange nose. Watercolor paintings are to be outlined and filled in, not mixed on the paper like acrylic paint. But... why?

Children often enjoy the act of creation, and then throw away the end product, and while this can rankle when you have painstakingly cut out dozens of small pieces to achieve perfect construction paper butterflies, only to see them in the trash, it's really because they were enjoying the creating, but didn't really care about the creation. Why not save yourself the frustration, but keep the same fun?

Process art is also wonderful for adults. Take coloring books, for example. You color them to relax and enjoy coloring, but most people won't treasure the pages once they're done. The end picture is not the point; the coloring is the point.

How To Get Started

If you're unsure of the concept of process art, you can start the way you generally do, and take away the rules. Instead of "we are making paper caterpillars and this is what they look like," tell your patrons, "we are making paper caterpillars. Here are the supplies," and see what they do. Some may be long and skinny, some may have 7 eyes, some may be every supply glued onto the paper in a very abstract sort of way.

Try working with consumable products - literally. Decorate cupcakes or cookies with any number of edible products. The end result is going to be eaten, anyway, so it doesn't matter what it looks like. The idea is to have fun making it.

With little ones, you can use any number of tactile art products. Why not try:
  • Paper cutting with safety scissors
  • Shaving cream on a table - let them make a huge mess and wash it away with water
  • Finger paint on a large piece of paper taped to the table - one group project means nobody takes it home, anyway
  • Setting out odds and ends from other projects and seeing what they create
  • Painting with marbles, toy cars, vegetables, or anything else that makes a unique impression
Painting with unique objects can be fun for older kids and adults, too, though you may want to phrase it more as "make your own unique wrapping paper" than "come play with paint," or you may not get an audience.

What Do You Think?

We'd love to hear about your own experience with process art! Let us know here in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.

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