Sunday, February 23, 2014

When Pigasso Met Mootisse

This story has many admirers among art teachers. There should be more admirers among early childhood educators. It has everything! War! Grudges! Messes! Hurt feelings and most importantly: Making up. The story is based loosely upon the friendship of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, with animals subbing for the historical humans. 

The children are enthralled with super-heros and fighting, as so many children are. When I started reading When Pigasso Met Mootisse to my kids two years ago I was not convinced it would hold their attention. What I discovered was that the concept of an "art attack" hit the sweet spot in their fight-loving brains. Subsequently I also discovered that fighting for fighting's sake wasn't what they were really interested in. They were in love with the brio of the battle between opposites.  In super-hero stories, it was the battle between good guys and bad guys. In this story it is the battle between two different styles of self-expression. Feelings run very high in either case, but the idea is the same. 

So we are thinking about doing a "unit", as we say in the biz. 

The children mostly favored Picasso's style of art, which is cubism in the story. All of the blogs I've looked at show children's versions of Picasso portraits. They are way cool, folks. I applaud the teachers who give explicit directions, teach art style, and still get creative, individual results. I'm of two minds about this. I love the result. The children get away from houses, butterflies, ninjas, etc. for a while, as my friend, Angelique, says in her blog. They produce something original, with a set of learned skills and techniques. There is so much value in this. The children, as another art teacher friend has said, need to be taken seriously. On the other hand, in our program, which values process over product, we usually give materials, scaffolding, and time. We ask them for their ideas. We even wait for them. Can we resolve these two approaches? 
Should we ask them to produce their own Picassos? Or should we expose them to Picasso and give them the materials and time to see where their inspiration leads? 

What do you think?