It is a funny job. Whilst others plan financial futures or sell knick-knacks to each other I spend my day pottering about with good old fashioned art materials. Usually in the company of twenty to thirty young adolescents. Each day I make an example or two to express to the children what I think might be a good idea for them to do. There is an old Chinese proverb about if I tell you you will forget most of it, if I show you you will remember half of it and if you do it you will remember most of it. These examples are me showing people how to do something so that they can do it themselves.

But it is also something else. It is also my own work. I didn’t think that it was for many years. The things I did at school were the things I did at school for a purpose and my real work was done elsewhere or in gaps at school. There was a difference. But as time has gone on and as part of the research project I have reassessed the work I do in the classroom with the children. I have started to value it for one thing and to exhibit it as ‘my work’. I have also started to see how it isn’t just there as a tool. There is a lot of expression in it. I am not a very good neutral filter. Quite  the opposite.

Should I be more neutral? There seems to be a question about this. I should, I think, be here to promote the children’s own creativity. The theory would be that they are to create independently, to have their own ideas. In order to do this they don’t need to have any one elses ideas. The teacher’s ideas can be such that the pupils doesn’t have any ideas and thus copies the teacher. This would not be promoting the child’s creativity.

But how does creativity work? How do you have ideas? How do people learn how to be creative? Is it possible to be creative in a vacuum? Some would argue not, that it isn’t a skill that can be acquired without it acting on something, that creativity needs a medium in which to work, be that poetry or paint or what ever. I would agree. For me, part of creativity is that interaction with a medium which feeds more ideas. It isn’t the carrying out of a plan. Well, there might be a plan to start with but it is open to suggestion as the piece proceeds.

This Clemente piece is a nice example. We have visitors coming in on Thursday and the school is on DefCon4. The long wall outside the staff room is looking rather frowsy and the work has been there a while. I want to liven it up. I stand and stare at it last Thursday morning when I am thinking that I need to do something about it. I can see in my mind’s eye something to do with a sense of writhing and mark making going going down there and I know I only have one lesson to do it in. Clemente comes into my mind and I have a plan. We are doing Identity in year 8 and I can see some sort of one off expressive self-portrait being the way to go.

So this morning I paste together and PPT of Clemente images from the web. I look at the figures and I would like there to be figures but realise that his thing about orifices means that most of them are unusable. I also see the gossip shots of him with other artists and so on at fancy New York art parties and him looking distinguished and Mapplethorpe shots of him as a sensitive young man.

But I have enough portraits for my point and this afternoon I set out black paint and white paper and I show the children the PPT and I do one myself. I talk a little bit about Clemente and I mention that I really liked him when I was at art college, as you can see, I can still do a fair Clemente. I nearly choke at that point and look at my painting there in front of all the class and a whole lot of things telescope into the moment for me. I set the children off and they all make their versions. I finish my painting and call it Self-portrait as a 1980’s art star.

With the second set I start the painting off with a dolphin and a shooting star and put the self portrait behind them. Not many of the children take me up on that idea. This one is Self-portrait as a much younger artist. There is quite a lot of emotion in them and I can see that really they don’t have much to do with Clemente at all. I have taken the guy’s work and made a representation of it, whipped out some of the elements, the face on, the big eyes, a way to do lips, things whizzing around or infront of the head and things in the orifices. The children pick up much more on what I have done than what is on the slide show.

Is that wrong?

Sort of inevitable as I am a living, breathing person in front of them rather than a bunch of pictures on a screen by some indeterminable bloke. My presence carries more force than his and I am the teacher and I am showing you what to do. Clemente isn’t giving that much away. So it is likely to be the case. But do I use the force for good?