It's an interesting one and helps us keep searching for the right path in the shadowy, entangled, ever changing forest of educational philosophy! There are so many people who say they have the answers. Who do we believe? There isn't even an art MCAS test!? What are we to do?
Process vs Product
Let's state the opposing camps in an extreme way:
-art is about experimentation
-the product doesn't matter to the students or the teacher
-children always should direct their own work
-sensory experience is everything
-nobody needs sculpture made out of toilet paper rolls or egg cartons
-art is about learning correct methods from experts
-the product is the sole purpose
-adults define what a good product is
-good art is technically difficult and requires discipline
-nobody needs sculpture made out of toilet paper rolls or egg cartons unless it is well crafted
I'm kidding about the toilet paper rolls. I love recycled sculpture. (It's just difficult to find the right gallery space in most of our houses where we struggle to find a place for our kids' cleats, boots, backpacks...)
Obviously neither of these camps represents the whole story. It is not an either/or situation. There cannot be an art-making process without a product nor a product without a process. There are products that don't last (like Andy Goldsworthy's beautiful leaf installations) but art making is always about the MAKING.
Art-making requires many capacities- intellectual, emotional and physical. It requires work and play, action and non-action, skill and experimentation.
Every teacher has to strike a balance between these sets of variables almost on a day to day basis. After all we are human, ever-changing beings!
Often young children value their products differently from their mothers/fathers and teachers who are looking for something they can relate to as an adult. They might choose something really ugly to be proud of because it means something in their imaginative world. Don't we all shudder when we see a gorgeous painting made brown by one more layer of paint? That brown layer may have been the conclusion of a story that drove the painting throughout the process. The more I watch children paint the more I see them engaged in the changes that occur in the paint as a result of their actions rather that the finished product. (dry tempera is rather dull)
On the other hand children sometimes want to make something happen in paint and they don't know how. In this case a new skill/method can open up a whole new set of possibilities for a child.
I like what my art teacher mentors in Toronto said about kindergarten paintings. They called them souvenirs of a process. Like all souvenirs, sometimes they are valuable in themselves and sometimes they are valuable only because they remind us of something meaningful that happened in the past.
What do you think about this?
Examples of Process-Oriented Art
No Product That Lasts: Big Recycled Clay
-tactile, fluid, changeable
-ideas in 3D
-learn the properties of clay
Edward de Bono, Children Solve Problems: Detailed Drawings
Inspired by the book Children Solve Problems by Edward de Bono students designed 'fun machines'. The ideas were recorded as large black and white drawings. They were asked to show how the machine worked in as much detail as possible.
Plaster Casting from Clay: An Ancient Process experienced first hand
Students created clay bas reliefs in small square boxes . We then poured plaster to create a negative version of that surface. Here is an example of an informative process (casting is such an important concept in the history of western art but how many of us know how it is done). This was a simple version of the process and the products were surprising and interesting for us all. (what will that deep hole in my clay create in the plaster cast? Wow it's a giganitic projection!) Most of them were not products that were important in themselves.