put down the glue gun and step away from the glitter. The importance of teaching kids real art…

put down the glue gun and step away from the glitter. The importance of teaching kids real art… January 15, 2012

… I had no particular religious upbringing as a child. The child-rearing trends of the 70’s left much to be desired. The one practiced in my home was the belief that children should not be forced into their parent’s religion but to wander aimlessly in a spiritual wasteland until Hell gobbles them whole experience all the world has to offer then pick a system of beliefs that works for them. Bosh.

At least I had art. I lived in the Chrysler Museum as a child, mostly because our apartment didn’t have air-conditioning. I remember being maybe seven or eight and standing in front a painting of the Final Judgement. I was dwarfed by the wall sized painting and at eye level with Hell. It started then, at that moment, when I realized God was real and Hell was a very scary place.

This picture is of my son at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh doing the same thing I did three decades ago; contemplating Hell. The imagery is powerful wouldn’t you agree? It conveys a powerful truth about good and evil and the repercussions of sin. I can understand why liberal modern artists would want to keep art students from studying realist and classical art. Because the above image has the power to convert souls where the latter corrupts. I dare say it scares the hell out of them. You can image my surprise decades later to read the very same type of painting, of a Final Judgement, was the same that converted Peter Hitchens.

Art is so very powerful and for that reason it is all the more important to be taught to children, even at the youngest age. No, not arts and crafts. I abhor arts and crafts. Children are capable of understanding and appreciating art – real art. So please put away the pipe cleaners and glue gun, especially if you have boys. If you want to kill the arts for boys make them do arts and crafts. This I can not stress enough.

No, I’m talking about real lessons in art. Our Catholic faith is rich with imagery and symbolism. Teach children at a young age to decode their meanings and art will come alive for them. Kids are bored in museums because they don’t know what it is they’re seeing. If they can not make a relevant connection it holds no importance in the mind of a child. Teach children about the saints and their lives so when they walk into the halls of museum or church they will be greeted with familiar faces. Teach them allegories of vice and virtue, as these were common themes of Renaissance art. A basic knowledge of mythology will also help young eyes decipher the works art surrounding them. Depending on the age, you can teach them about various techniques used by the masters and begin teaching them classical drawing.

With understanding comes appreciation, with appreciation comes admiration and finally a love for art and beauty.

"Pithy and so, so, true. If it were possible, I'd post a million of these ..."

#whyIstayed Why Women Stay In Domestically ..."
"All the best to you, Katrina! We'll miss you. Thanks for sharing your journey with ..."

Ten Years is a Long Run…
"Bon voyage on your new endeavours. And thank you."

Ten Years is a Long Run…
"I will miss your unique, funny, honest voice. Thank you for all the years of ..."

Ten Years is a Long Run…

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • This reminds me a bit of one of my favorite posts: http://evlogiaonline.com/2010/09/09/no-hot-glue-gun-required/

  • Mark Abeln

    I think you’ll like this photo:

    The Russians, by the way, are leaving the West far behind in arts education these days.

    • Exquisite! That would would make a beautiful painting. 

      And yes, the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics have a better understanding of the sacredness of art and have far surprised Western art schools – which are slow declining. They begin teaching their children iconography as young as 3. 

      • Patricia

        It has been said that Western religious art (beautiful as some of it may be) is something that you look at, while icons  — often referred to as windows into heaven — are something that looks back at you. 

  • Anonymous

    While I agree with most of this, I gotta dissent on the anti-crafting, especially for boys thing. A boy learning to whittle, or otherwise occupy his hands and mind while sitting mostly still is a valuable skill. And I’m pro-glue gun and pipe cleaners too, but I dare not call the projects art, just crafting.

    • By that definition, Babs, playing a video game would be a skill.  I’m talking about fostering a love of art – real art – and beauty. 

      • Anonymous

        Hm, I still disagree because learning to create is both useful and fosters an appreciation of artistic skill and beauty. Do you not love beautifully carved furniture or hand embroidered dresses? Do you think boys and girls learning to create through crafts can’t teach them beauty and line and light? Sure, the whole glue gun/glitter/pipe cleaner craft will only take a kid so far if you never graduate beyond that, but it has it’s uses. Surely it’s more useful than Wii bowling.

        • I think we basically agree. We only part ways when debating the usefulness of glitter/glue gun crafts. I think they serve no purpose even among the youngest children. Wood working and embroidery are artful crafts, yes, but neither require pipe cleaners and googly eyes as primers to learning. 

          • Anonymous

            You are right, of course. But at 32 weeks pregnant I am a little defensive of the pleasure I derive from an hour spent with my feet up while my children *mostly* quietly glue things together and pour copious amounts of glitter upon their creations. Perhaps if I didn’t own a vacuum that my 4 year old can operate I would feel differently.

            Incidentally, my 1st grader did put googly eyes on her Nativity drawing, but only on the animals.

          • kenneth

            Michaelangelo initially put googly eyes on Adam in his first rendering of the Sistine Chapel. 

            Pope Julius II, in what some historians call his finest moment of lucidity and wisdom, put the kibosh on that!

          • kenneth

            Everyone has to start somewhere in the arts, and pipe cleaners and glitter are no more absurd a starting place than any other. Everyone likes to think their own kid is a prodigy, of course, but it’s  a fact of neurology that young kids have the approximate fine motor control of an end-stage Parkinson’s patient after slamming a pot of coffee!

            At the same time, a true artist can do something truly inspiring with absurdly simple materials like glitter and pipe cleaners (or even scrap items). An uninspired hack with flawless technical mastery is still a hack. Some of the most technically skilled “artists” ever born are forgers….

          • I’m not talking about prodigies. Art is as much a learned skill as math or music. The point is,  to learn to play the piano you practice scales… not pound your fists on the keys and claim this is a legitimate start.  

            I am writing about laying solid foundations for an appreciation of art that will grow into a love of beauty.  I’m not saying raise budding Rembrandts, raise kids who recognize Rembrandt and understand why he’s superior to Pollock – speaking of hacks.     

          • kenneth

            Just so long as we don’t train kids to work like Pollack, and to drink a fifth a day! That would set art back considerably, although it  WOULD solve the Medicare and Social Security insolvency problem…..

          • You’re a smart ass aren’t you, Kenneth? Not that I have any objection, you do amuse me. 🙂 

          • kenneth

               That gift is the only reason any woman tolerates me. 

               (That and the fact that I can reach the tallest shelves and possess a certain amount of mechanical skill!)   Quite honestly it’s one of the only reasons decent folk have not banded together and hung me from the willow tree on a moonless night!

  • Jana_alanda

    My mom, who has a degree in art as a teacher but could never get a job, says that the only place classical art is taught is in Russia. I think the main problem we have here in the US is that art teachers don’t know how to teach classical art. They don’t know how to draw it and the concept of copywork, escential to success, is conscidered a terrible idea. It always seemed to me that they were constantly reinventing the wheel. I hate modern art. My favorite are the classical painters and the pre-Rafaelites. Dali is interesting for a while but ultimately too odd for my tastes. I love Escher but there is no softness to his work. Picaso is childish. Give me Michaelangelo, Holbein the Younger, Larsson, Waterhouse, and Raphael. I love good artwork.

    • A.R.

      I agree!  Though there are a handful of places that have sprung up in the U.S. that teach classical drawing and painting. There’s a list on the Art Renewal Center website: http://www.artrenewal.org/pages/ateliers.php

  • Jes

    I always think the illustrated lives of some of the more colorful, perhaps bloody martyrs, is a good way of getting boys attention. Of course, I don’t teach catechism any more.

  • Charles

    Katrina, you’re very much onto something with this post. Among other subjects I taught in public middle and high school, I taught Visual Art History. (Main subject and quite related, Choral Music.) Though I was extremely scrupulous to ensure that “line” of church/state wasn’t formally crossed, I seriously provoked thought and reflection at every turn of either Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” or Buonoratti’s “Last Judgment” in an effort to engineer any consideration that there are cosmic consequences to behavior choices and moral natural law among those young skulls full of mush. Back then, the gang/drug issue was no less a daily concern than now, and “Character Counts” and “Just say no” were just excuses for assemblies at which much snickering was unabashedly displayed. Nope, God can’t be denied any access anywhere, including a public school classroom.  Wussification of discipline codes and procedures have earned society what we’re reaping now, God help us.

  • Jane S

    “Kids are bored in museums because they don’t know what it is their seeing. ”  Not ‘their but ‘they are’, and the sentence is awkward.”This picture is of my son at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh doing the same thing I did three decades ago; contemplate Hell.” … You mean ‘contemplating’ and always put the subject–in this case ‘son’ –first in the sentence.
    “The child rearing trends …” You mean ‘child-hyphenate-rearing’ or ‘child-rearing’: The child is not ‘rearing’.

    The message of this blog is interesting, though deciphering the intended meaning of several ill-written sentences is distracting. Our editing toolkit is our best ally.

    • Thank you for bringing the two grammatical errors to my attention. I corrected them. However, you are incorrect in stating that the subject is always first in a sentence.  

    • Blipbloopblip

      Do you wear your hair in a very tight bun? Do you purse your lips or click your tongue whenever you see an error in a sentence? Are you wearing white (shudder) pantyhose?

      • Lina

        Criticism may not always be easy to take, and you may not have liked what Jane had to say, but you needn’t be so vile in responding to her.  Grammar is important.  I too wish Katrina would work on her writing skills a little; she has things to say, and refining her style would do much to help her and her readers.
        I really wish the modern school system hadn’t decided that teaching children to write properly was unnecessary.

        • I have no problem with constructive criticism and am grateful when someone  catches something my eye missed.  Usually they email me – out of tact – and leave off the condescending end bits. 

          Yes, I make typos and mistakes, like we are all prone to do, but I will defend myself against accusations of being ill-written or that I need to work on my writing skills and refine my style.  

          • Blipbloopblip

             “Usually they email me – out of tact – and leave off the condescending end bits. ”


          • Lina

            We may disagree, but you’re a big girl, this is your blog, and you make your own decisions; if your writing bothers me so much, I needn’t read it, right?  And frankly I have much less of a problem with your writing than I do with the mean -spirited insults put forth by this Blipbloopblip person.  Missing a semicolon won’t extend anyone’s time in purgatory, but that sort of mockery might.  The least we Catholics can do is try to disagree charitably.

          • No, you are quite right there. I would have deleted the comment had it been directed at me because it violates my policy against “nonsensical nanny-nanny boo-boo stupid head you suck” comments. 

            I should have been a gracious host and immediately removed it. With that I owe Jane S a sincere apology.

          • Lina

            I like your policy description.  Also, thank you. 
            Also, in fairness, I’ll point out that my own last comment had a typo – there should be no space in “mean-spirited”… 

  • Tcn

    I took Art History on a lark in college. I ended up Catholic. Studying the art of the medieval period will do that to you. If you pay attention.

    Now, if I could only get over to Europe to see some of it in person….

  • kenneth

    THAT picture of Hell doesn’t scare me at all. A photo or oil painting of a Wal-Mart during back to school week or Christmas is an altogether different matter!

  • In 2005, 2 months after JPII died, my mom and I went to Italy. We were in the Baptistry in Florence and I stood in line so that I could be the first one in. When I got inside, I laid down on the floor so I could take pictures of the mosaic ceiling. I looked right up to the image of Satan shoving souls into his mouth. I was raised Catholic, but not practicing and JPII’s death and funeral had left some interesting residue on my mind and heart. I felt a real ripple of fear when I saw it. 
    Screw the glitter, let’s show people what’s truly at stake. 

  • Ginacolleen

    Let me get this straight, you bash the “experience all the world has to offer then pick a system of beliefs that works for you” upbringing,  by you yourself experiencing all the world has to offer then picking  a system of beliefs that worked  for you? Interesting. 

    • I didn’t just pick some arbitrary system of beliefs that was most convenient to me… I picked THE system. Catholicism.  And yes, it was a very interesting conversion. 


      • Ginacolleen

        Yes exactly, you picked the one you liked the best.

        • Well now, aren’t you proving to be quite the exercise in patience this evening. Again, it was not that I liked Catholicism best.  I had the intellectual wherewithal to recognize the Truth.   There is nothing easy, convenient, comfortable, at times even likable about being Catholic.  But it’s the Church Christ founded so where else is there for a soul to go? 

          Not quite being intentionally difficult unless you have something fruitful or more thoughtful to add. At least Kenneth is witty and makes me laugh.