Young artists at work

Painting your bedroom a pleasing color, setting a beautiful table, accentuating a room with throw pillows, landscaping with a rock wall and perennial flowers, and creating the perfect outfit are all forms of self-expression. They are forms of art. Everyone can be an artist in one way or another by finding an outlet for expression. Just as music often speaks in ways that words cannot, the arrangement of color, shapes, and objects can communicate many emotions and ideas.

It seems like there need not be a day to celebrate something that has been a part of daily lives since the beginning of time, but there is such a specific holiday. April 15 is World Art Day. Only begun in 2012, the International Association of Art declared this date to promote art appreciation and all it represents. According to the association, given unsettling events in the world today that threaten foundations of democracy, it “needs the power that freedoms of thought and speech can bring, and who better to lead this effort than the artists of the world.”

The choice of April 15 was not random; it coincides with the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci.

He was chosen as a true “Renaissance Man” for his diversity of skill, talent, and exploration in so many areas. Born in 1452, Leonardo is known for work in architecture, anatomy, engineering, music, mathematics, botany, map making, writing, and many futuristic inventions.

He is best known for his paintings which include “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa.”

Clearly, few people become a daVinci, Michelangelo, or Picasso and many find drawing or painting portraits very difficult.

However, a group of local fourth graders recently created self portraits and learned much in the process. Their teacher, Kimberly Black of Fredonia Elementary School, challenged the students to undertake this project by giving them special instruction and art materials. Acting like artists, they became excited, gained confidence in their abilities, and learned to express their inner selves through their works.

An art gallery in the school’s hallway displays numerous unique pieces. Students initially studied portraits by artists Frida Kahlo and Chuck Close. Students discussed what a self-portrait is, why artists make them, and different ways they make them.

After students concluded that artists create self-portraits to express themselves, they brainstormed some of their own individual characteristics, and converged on a couple of images they could incorporate into their own self-portrait.

They learned the proportions of their faces and how to mix paint colors to get skin tone, eyes, and hair with an end product that took numerous sessions to complete.

Patience, focus, and great work takes time are just three of many lessons learned while creating self-portraits. Other artists state that they learned to do their best, not all art is done in one day, art is fun, to be myself, art expresses your feelings, practice makes perfect, use your imagination, and sometimes you have to wait.

One student enthusiastically stated, “I am an artist!”

There is indeed a place for art in school alongside the traditional academic subjects.

A comprehensive program includes several components. For example, students create and participate in art as they develop ideas in both two and three dimensions and produce artworks based on personal ideas, images, and themes. They demonstrate various design elements such as color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value which are the building blocks of art.

Organizational principles of art including balance, movement, repetition, emphasis, contrast, and unity are also part of a sound program as well as selecting artwork to display. Students come to know and use art materials and resources by experimenting with different media.

They analyze works of art and artists’ styles. Connections are made in other content areas, particularly in social studies when students learn about art from other cultures and throughout history.

Where would we be in a world without art? It would be dull indeed.

Look all around and you see its beauty and stories. One of the best things about art is that you can come back to it again and again to enjoy and savor. For the health and honey enthusiasts, “Art is the stored honey of the human soul.”

Make it a good week.

Mary Burns Deas writes weekly for the OBSERVER. Comments on this article may be directed to lifestyles@observertoday.com