Art Education – Three Sides To Art Education

ART, EVEN in its relation to elementary education, is a subject so comprehensive that it is impossible to treat it exhaustively in a School Manual. The ways of teaching it are many, and the lessons outlined in the following pages are intended to be largely suggestive. But, though methods may vary with the individuality of the teacher, the underlying principles to be taught must be the same in all cases.

In order that the best results may be obtained from the teaching of this subject, its ethical, cultural, and industrial bearing on the pupil’s education must be recognized.

Its ethical value depends, among other things, upon the truthfulness of expression required and the just discrimination between contending interests that many of the exercises demand. Not the least of the benefits that come to the pupil through the study of the subject is the vision that it gives him of the dignity of labour, in that the lowliest work well done may, through the workman’s attitude toward it, come to rank as a veritable work of art.

Its cultural value is to be found in the refining influence that the study and the appreciation of the beautiful have upon the individual, especially when these are coupled with the effort to produce it.

The industrial side, however, must not be lost sight of, for although all the pupils who pass through the elementary schools do not join the ranks of the industrial army, all are made more capable and efficient by a training which develops the creative faculty and enables the eye and hand to work in unison with the brain. For the sake of the pupils who must make their living by their hands, the teacher with breadth of vision will study the industries of the neighbourhood and shape many of the school lessons to meet their needs.


In the pages that follow, the Course of Study is expanded and interpreted under six heads, namely : Illustrative Drawing, Representation, Picture Study, Colour, Design, and Lettering. It is not to be understood that these divisions are separate and distinct nor that they must necessarily be taken up in the order indicated. They have been arranged in this manner for greater convenience in handling, and in order that the subject may be more clearly apprehended.

A bare statement of what is to be taught is given in the Course of Study. This is amplified and made more definite in the Detailed Course which follows it. To any one who observes the manner in which the work for each Form is built on the knowledge and power that should have been gained in the preceding Forms, the Course, as set forth in the Manual, must commend itself as being simple and easily covered. Under ideal conditions the teacher cannot fail to find it so. At the same time it has been recognized that some schools are affected by conditions which seriously hamper art study, while other schools more fortunately situated have splendid facilities for this work. Accordingly, an effort has been made to frame the Course with sufficient elasticity to give scope to all. The teacher’s aim in following it should be, not so much to cover all the work prescribed, as to teach all the principles through such exercises as are best fitted to the class and the environment. The principles should be so taught that the pupil will be in a position to apply them with intelligence in exercises that are entirely new to him, as well as in those with which he is already familiar.


The lines followed in each particular school must depend largely upon environment. One school may be surrounded by fine old trees, another by gardens filled with an abundance of flowers suitable for study. In one locality vegetables or fruits may be easily procured. Near another school {here may he an old house or a bridge that the finger of time has softened so that it takes its place as a natural. and harmonious part of a landscape. Quaint old jars without decoration; antique vessels of iron, copper, or brass; or old-fashioned furniture of plain and simple form are to be obtained, possibly, in one neighbourhood; while pet animals or birds and interesting costumes for poses are to be had in another. The window sketch in the city may take the place of the landscape in the country; while in some localities the presence of a lake or river in the neighbourhood may not only invest landscape study with more than ordinary interest, but also afford opportunities for the sketching of boats. There are more ways than one of complying faithfully with the Course of Study. The good material that lies at hand must inspire and mark out the lines that may, with best results, be chosen.


Variety adds interest, and it is well to bear in mind that learning to sketch anything in the proper way gives the power to sketch similar things, and learning to handle one medium helps in the handling of all mediums of kindred nature. Thus every step gained in one direction is a help in all.

As the pencil is the most convenient medium for ordinary use in any occupation, the ability to use it well is of great importance. It is, however, the most difficult medium to handle, and the other mediums, especially charcoal, should lead up to its use.


The lessons from Form to Form in the Manual are planned to suit the growing powers of observation, appreciation, and expression in the pupils as they advance; but with the exception of the increasing difficulty of the problems given, the change of emphasis from one particular to another, and the difference in the language used for pupils of various ages, there is great similarity in the teaching of drawing in the different Forms. For this reason, the teacher of a Primary class may find, in a lesson intended for Forms III or IV, points that may be made use of in a Primary class, while the teacher of a Form IV class may make excellent use of ideas gleaned from Form I lessons.

It is not intended that the Manual should put the words in the teacher’s mouth; rather it is intended that these lessons should offer one way of inculcating certain principles that must be taught, in order that each teacher may, after a similar manner, develop an individual style of teaching. It is just as desirable that the instructor’s individuality in teaching should be cultivated as it is that the pupil’s individuality of expression in the different mediums should be developed.


A number of the drawings in the Manual are reproductions, much reduced in size, of the actual work of pupils, and show what should be expected of a good average pupil in each Form. The remaining illustrations are intended to present good handling and different methods of using the mediums. Except in the case of alphabets, the illustrations are not intended to be copied. It is always an advantage to have good examples for reference, that pupils may learn how to handle things in a similar way, but copying tends to cripple effort.


A frequent cause of poor work is to be found in the improper use, and the lack of care, of materials.

The leaves in the blank drawing books are perforated so that one at a time may be detached. The practice of using leaves without removing them from the book, besides restricting expression, tends to destroy the edges of the unused sheets, and mars their freshness.

The owner’s name should be lettered on each drawing in a uniform way.

The drawings made by each pupil should be kept in a portfolio large enough to hold them and the blank drawing book. The owner’s name should be on the outside of each portfolio. All portfolios should be collected at the end of the lesson and kept in a closed cupboard or in a covered box.

Time may be saved by adopting a systematic plan for the distribution and collection of materials. The things to be used by the pupils of each row should be placed on the front desk and passed back in an orderly way.

Paint-boxes should be cleaned at the end of the lesson, and each brush washed and brought to a point. Sometimes boxes and brushes are kept in the portfolios. When this is done the brushes should be put in with the handle end down. Each pupil should be provided with a shallow pan or a low, wide-mouthed bottle for water. A clean piece of old cotton cloth will be found preferable to blotting-paper for the use of the pupils in water-colour lessons.

At the close of the lesson all materials to be collected should be passed up to the front desks, to be put away by monitors.

Before the summer vacation, brushes should be put where moths cannot get at them.

The brush used should not be smaller than No. 7. It should be full and firm. and should come to a good point when moistened.

The best charcoal for school purposes is very inexpensive. It comes in boxes of fifty sticks, which may be broken in two, as from four to six inches is a convenient length for the pupils to handle. Charcoal should be held loosely under the hand about the middle of the stick or farther back. It should not be sharpened for general work.

The regular drawing pencil should be quite soft, not harder than B nor much softer than B B. The teacher should test a pencil before recommending it to the pupils. One firm stroke of a pencil that is too hard will not produce a mark sufficiently dark for accents; while instead of the smooth, gray line that is desirable in a sketch, too soft a pencil will produce one that is woolly in appearance and easily blurred.

Drawing pencils should be sharpened with a long slant of wood, and not more than a quarter of an inch of lead need be exposed. The lead should not be sharpened, but slightly rounded by rubbing it lightly on a piece of paper. The side of the point should produce the line in drawing. When the pencil is worn down so that the line becomes too broad, the point of the lead should be nipped off. It will be found that greater freedom of expression is secured in sketching by holding the pencil far from the point and under the hand, so that all the tips of the fingers touch it lightly. Care should be taken that a pupil receives the same pencil each time one is used. A pencil case for each row will be found convenient. These eases may be made of pieces of felt or heavy cloth nine inches by twelve inches in size. Four inches of the length should be turned up, divided into as many pockets as there are pupils in a row, and stitched on the divisions. If a piece of white tape is basted along the upper edge of the fold before the pockets are stitched up, the compartments may be numbered on it in ink.

If there are so few pupils in a row that the pockets prove too wide to hold the pencil securely, this defect may be overcome by an extra row of stitching at one end of each division. A quarter of a yard of felt will make six cases, as this material is two yards wide. The pencils should be put in the cases with points up, so that it may be seen at a glance whether or not they are in proper condition for the next lesson.

The ruler should be used in Design, from Form II upwards, for measurements and for drawing construction lines, excepting when an exercise is given to test the pupil’s power to judge distances and draw light freehand lines. With the exception of occasional construction lines, all other drawing should be freehand. A ruled line has a mechanical appearance and is noticeably out of harmony with the curved lines that cannot be ruled in a drawing. Good pencil rendering demands that all the lines be freehand even in the representation of rectangular objects.


During the lesson the attention of the class as a whole should be called to the common errors that are being made, and the method of correcting these should be demonstrated. Assistance may be given to the individual pupil when it is deemed advisable, but the teacher’s work should not form a part of the pupil’s drawing. All finished drawings should have their good points approved and their defects pointed out by the teacher.


Many beautiful illustrations are to be found in magazines and periodicals. The pupils should be encouraged to make collections of helpful reference materials of all kinds. These may be arranged according to subject or medium in a large loose-leaf scrap-book or in folios, to be brought out by the teacher as occasion requires.

A bulletin board at least five feet long by two feet high will be found very convenient for the display of good drawings and reference materials of different kinds for study. The board should be covered with burlap or some similar material of a subdued tone calculated to harmonize with the surroundings and with any samples that may be pinned upon it. A bulletin board should be so placed that anything exhibited upon it will be only slightly above the eye of the average pupil.

Occasional public exhibitions of pupils’ drawings, when well mounted and tastefully arranged, have an educational force and assist in arousing general interest. They are also an incentive to the pupils to make greater effort. These exhibitions may be held at school closings or at local Autumn Fairs.

The beneficial effect of beautiful surroundings on the growing child can hardly be estimated. Teachers should use what influence they have in seeing that the school-house and garden are made as beautiful as possible and kept in good condition. The walls of the school-room should be soft in colour, the depth of tone depending on the amount and quality of light the room receives. A few good pictures or plaster casts representing subjects of interest to the pupils will exercise constant influence on the occupants of the room and are more desirable than many pictures or ornaments of indifferent quality.