At a certain level, artistic creativity can be divided into two categories. One which is based on the artist's intuitive understanding of form in all its aspects and the other which is more inclined towards an intellectual approach. Intuition cannot be imparted or taught, but creativity which involves intellectual skills can be developed upto a certain level in most individuals. Hence, it should not be difficult to utilize the intellect and principles similar to those outlined above in the processes of learning art to an adequate level for the individual to find expression for his or her feelings, and by doing so grow into a better and fulfilled person. It, therefore, depends on the upbringing of the individual and education as a whole.
To put it differently, it means that whatever natural skills or aptitudes the individual may or may not be born with, with a healthy upbringing and sound education, he or she has the potential to develop into a good and creative being. Some people may not agree with such a statement. They believe that aptitude for artistic creativity is inborn and cannot be taught. Yes, to some extent it is true, specially about artists who have a fairly good degree of originality in their work and who are intuitively so. But it is also true that education plays an important role in building personality and imparting skills.
The best proof of artistic ability not being always inborn is in the fact that in the past the profession of an artist's/artisan's son was decided according to the family's tradition and not on the basis of what may be called the son's aptitude. For example, a painter's or a carpenter's son could not think of taking to any profession other than that of his father. It was expected that the son would carry on the family tradition. Although every artist's son could not have originality, he had to be sufficiently proficient in his profession to run his business well enough to be able to look after the needs of his family.
Every professional artist knows that apart from exceptional cases, training is an essential part of the process for reaching a certain level of proficiency. A dancer's body responds gracefully if it is trained from early childhood. To be a good singer it is essential to have a good voice, and even if one is not born with a good voice it is possible to train it to some extent, but only if it is done from the early years of one's life.
It is not implied that the aim of art education, for example of painting, is or should be to make everyone an artist-painter. Those who have it within themselves or those who will pursue it are more likely to reach a stage when they can be called artists. However, the most important aim of art education is to inculcate in every citizen an awareness and sensitivity to all the aspects of our environment, and grace in everyday life in other words, as already discussed, it is to develop the inclination and capacity to understand what is good and desirable and what is wrong and undesirable, not only for the individual but for society as a whole.
The foundations for this kind of sensitivity have to be laid from very early childhood. It is not necessary to mention here the well-known principle about the importance of the first three to five years of an individual's life, when much of one's future behaviour, attitudes and tastes are shaped. Many of the distortions too, which may not manifest at the time but become active later, have their seeds sown during that period and some even before birth. Proper art education holds out the possibility of softening and even eliminating these distortions. It is important that good education take care that such distortions do not take place in the life of children.
For building a sound and healthy personality of the individual a proper foundation has to be laid from the very beginning of childhood. It becomes too late and difficult, if not impossible, to change in later years. Experience of joy and fulfilment during the earliest days, months and years of the individual ensures healthy development during the future years too.
In this chapter we have discussed some key questions pertaining to the need for art education. The points that have been discussed here are important and relate to life as it is today. The defects in the planning and practice of education are responsible for the tension and selfishness that prevail in society today, and which ultimately result in conflict at all levels. Greed and the satisfying of greed seem to have become the goal of life. Fulfilment, instead of being inner satisfaction and joy, has come to mean physical and economic abundance and security, which has led to almost a total loss of values and the breakdown of human relationships and relations between human society and nature.
By sound planning of education, with art as its basis, a society should be able to re-establish some of the lost values and creativity that was once part of all cultures. After all, the main aim of life is to experience aananda ("bliss"). In the last paragraph of his book Shilpa Katha, Acharya Nandalal Bose writes: "In Kundal Jataka"19 there is a story of Kama-loka (the realm of passion)... Beyond Kama-loka there is Roopa-loka (world of form), beyond which there is Aroop-loka, the world in which even form does not exist. I say that beyond that there is yet another world. It is Aananda-loka (the world of joy and bliss). Kama-loka is attachment. It considers the body as supreme, and therefore leads to blindness. In Roopa-loka you feel some vibrations of real life; in Aroop-loka you start experiencing the rhythmic vibrations of totality. In Aananda-loka there is essence, which is whole life."20
It is neither sufficient nor justified to consider only the adult's approach in planning educational programmes for children, for the one who is at the receiving end is not an adult. The child's approach is very, if not entirely, different from that of the adult. Hence, for good educational planning it is also essential to take it into account. The child's approach does not give consideration to the end result of anything that he does or likes to do unless he has experienced its results first hand. Unlike the adult, the child does not have any value system governing his thinking and action. If there is anything a child considers desirable it is based on the elements of joy, satisfaction, accomplishment, recognition, and the argument behind the question: If you can do it, why can't I? There is yet another element that plays an important role in this respect. It is the wish to be like adults, not in every respect, but in selective matters, such as those which will allow their spirit of adventure to be satisfied.
Children are looking for new experiences all the time, and want to examine and put everything to test that attracts their eyes or feelings. If they like the experience, they want to repeat it until something new seems to be interesting or challenging. Things that the child gets attracted to are often those which the adults either do not see or are not interested in. In short, there are two different worlds—one is that of the adult and the other of the child. The subjects and methodologies of these worlds seem also to be different.
It is not that the adult is unable to see the things in which the child gets interested. The point to note here is that an item may be the same but its function, even its form and the angle from which it is viewed, will be different from the child's point of view. An illustration may be useful in explaining what I mean by there being two different worlds. Once I was reading a book in the light of a kerosene lamp, the only source of light available after sunset in Sevagram those days. My son, then only two, was sitting near me. Suddenly the light blew off causing some annoyance to me, but the child enjoyed it and laughed heartily. The object involved and the happening were the same for both of us, but their effects were different: one was of annoyance and the other of fun.
Every parent knows that children, specially very young ones, find it interesting to "mess" around in sand or mud; at that stage they do not have a perception of mud and sand being unclean or dirty. The most disturbing scene for a parent can be of their child "playing" with, picking up and even swishing around dead or live earthworms and insects. They tell the child off and drag him away from such an activity. The fact is that children's concepts of clean and dirty, good and bad, beautiful and ugly are not the same as those of adults. Nor can children make a link between values such as social consciousness and spiritual/religious awareness and the consequence of their activities. It is their urge to discover and draw pleasure from whatever they do that matters to them most. If a child experiences joy from an activity he or she will almost invariably wish to repeat it.
We are going to limit the area of this discussion only to art activities, particularly drawing and painting and allied subjects. We shall explore and identify the various ways in which children enjoy art activities and draw from them a sense of fulfilment. Almost all children like drawing pictures. This fact becomes obvious when you place colours and paper in front of them and ask if they would like to make pictures. Most children will jump at the offer. A few will shy- away, some on account of timidity, others for some other reasons, which we shall discuss at a later stage. In this chapter, let us examine the various ways children enjoy art activities and fulfil their emotional and intellectual needs. Such an exercise, hopefully, will provide a good understanding of children to teachers and parents.