Yesterday, I had an art class meet in my home, and I felt like I was well-prepared. I had a plan in place — each student was to create a painting of a pumpkin in watercolor. I had purchased some small ornamental pumpkins from the store, enough so each child could have one. According to my plan, each child would draw a pumpkin on her paper, then use some watercolor techniques to fill it in.
I had thought it through before we began: the students would spend a few minutes drawing the pumpkins, then they’d paint the background a deep, fall-ish brown color with a little green mixed in, and then they’d paint the pumpkin a vibrant orange. The pumpkin would really stand out against a dark background.
But…the one thing I didn’t have on hand was an example. And so I merely explained the plan to the students, and they started to work. Some drew their pumpkins quickly, others more slowly, but they all worked diligently.
Then the first student was ready to paint. I explained my “vision” for the background again, and she replied, “Can I just make a blue sky with some green grass?”
“Well,” I said, a little taken aback, “I guess so. Let’s get out some other colors.” We did, and she painted a lovely blue sky and green grass. Then she painted her pumpkin.
The next student, who loves horses, asked if she could add a horse to her picture. “Well,” I said, again a little unsure, “I guess so. Let me find a picture of one you can look at.” I pulled out several photos of horses, and she chose the one of a horse laying on the ground. She drew the horse with its neck outstretched, sniffing the pumpkin.
The third student, inspired by the horse photos, decided to add one to her painting too. Her horse was looking over a fence and licking the pumpkin. There were beautiful yellow flowers in long green grass in front of the fence.
The fourth student decided to try my idea with the browns and greens behind the pumpkin. It was a wonderful painting too, but not because of my idea. Like the others, it was an example of the creativity of the young artist. When I stepped out of the way, the students’ personalities came shining through — as each one created the perfect pumpkin.