Ihor Shuhan, an 8th grader at Mountain Laurel School, spent 2 days in our studio to create this captivating animation. He used pencil, charcoal, and marker on paper, and cut out most of the shapes to use in pixilation.
This was a part of his Artistic Presentation, a graduation requirement at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in New Paltz, New York. When he first came in, I suggested that he think about what he wants to express, make a storyboard, and plan the scene sequences. He reluctantly obliged and made a storyboard, which helped me follow his process. But the following day, he was left on his own for a few hours, and made the rest of his clips without a storyboard. Frankly, it was as good, if not better, than the part he made with the storyboard!
He only had a vague idea of what he was going to do, and made up each scene as he progressed. This is utterly different from how I work, and it was eye-opening to witness his work process. This is not the first time, however, that a student taught me something new. Luckily for me, it happens all the time.
This mutual learning is the joy and challenge of working with kids and youths in art. How do adults provide guidance in ways that encourage development of their natural creativity rather than confining it? For me, it is a constant cycle of observation and adjustment. Each youth and child is different. What works for one does not suit another, and even for the same child it is different each time. Fortunately, there is a universal sign that we all share in communication—a smile. And not just on the kids, but on myself as well. Things are good when we are all smiling. It’s even better when we break out in laughter, which, I’m happy to say, happens quite often in our studio.
With Ihor, I was happy I was able to offer him tried and true, albeit humble, tricks I learned from my student days, like using a bridge to prevent smudging charcoal lines, or using a brush to keep paper surface clear of eraser dust. It was also, after all, good to use storyboard the first day, because it helped us communicate better. Other than that, there was not much to teach. The only thing I did was to offer the space and equipment he could use to let his own creativity expand. But then again, maybe that is the most ideal way of teaching.