Featured Lesson Designer
Thanks to over two hundred lesson designers and content providers, SchoolhouseTeachers.com is home to hundreds of preschool through high school courses offering topics of interest that every student in the family can enjoy. The site offers students a quality education from a Biblical perspective. Each year, one talented lesson designer is recognized as The Lesson Designer of the Year. This year, John Hofland received this award. Honorable Mentions were awarded to Jessica Hall, the Honorable Kevin Smith, and Cherie Stamile. Congratulations, everyone!
I recently had an opportunity to interview John about his course, Achieving Art Success with ArtAchieve. His approach to art is enlightening and inspiring, and his enthusiasm for art is contagious.
TOS: How can art be used to bring glory to God?
John: We here in the West often see art as mere self-expression. But that’s an idea that comes from the Romantic tradition, an eighteenth-century tradition more aligned with Rousseau and the idea of the “perfect individual self” who, untainted by society, is free to express himself however he pleases. You find that influence increasingly in our society. But Christ calls us to serve, not self, but others. And one way to do that is to first of all learn to observe, to study closely, and to delight in the world as God’s creation through art, and to use our skill to serve the greater good. That’s different from mere self-expression. It’s more like the Byzantine, Medieval, and pre-Enlightenment artists who painted for churches, for civic institutions—in other words, to serve others. Yes, they each had their own style as they painted; they were individuals, after all, but they weren’t individualists who were merely painting to express themselves.
TOS: Please describe your own unique approach to teaching art.
John: I like to see my art lessons as emphasizing four things. First of all, I want students to discover that yes, they can draw, that making art is not the talent of the gifted few but that it’s more like reading: a skill you can learn. Therefore the lessons guide students through the drawing process so that their cat looks like a cat, etc., and they can feel satisfied with it. I want them to grow in confidence, so I usually ask them to draw with a permanent magic marker. It requires students to look closely before they draw, and the bold lines require commitment and (eventually) inspire confidence. The “Rules for Drawing” that accompany each lesson are designed to further this feeling of confidence.
“The lessons are designed to make art a form of curiosity, a kind of window on the world, so that students learn more than just art techniques.”
Secondly, I want to allow room for personal interpretation, so once the central object of their project has been drawn, they can watch what I do, and then they are free to use my work as inspiration for their own work.
Third, the lessons are designed to make art a form of curiosity, a kind of window on the world, so that students learn more than just art techniques. They use the techniques to further their interest in geography, history, science, etc. Most of the lessons are based on objects from around the world, images that give a glimpse of a certain culture so they work as a springboard that encourages students to want to learn more about the subject they are drawing.
Last of all, I hope to expose students to a variety of inexpensive kinds of art media: pencil, chalk, oil pastels, and more. I know that many people have crayons and pencils readily at hand and may want to stick with them only, but the lessons are really enhanced if people use the materials that are suggested. Different media force us to see things in new ways. I remember the first time I tried oil pastels. Suddenly I was unable to draw tiny details like I usually did. That’s because the pastels are so fat and make us look at broader surfaces.
TOS: What is your advice for students pursuing a career in art?
John: First of all, there are many avenues for someone interested in creating art and serving others. There is architecture, illustrating, fine art, and interior design to name a few, so applying an interest in art need not be limited to fine art. I personally work as a teacher, advertising copy artist, illustrator, and more. Secondly, look for a place to study art where you learn not only solid technique and brilliantly creative approaches, but also a place that helps you learn to apply your art for the greater good and for the greater glory of God. Art students, in my experience, often graduate without practical business skills, so my last bit of advice is to study business, or at least a science or math, so you have a practical way of making a living as you do your art.
TOS: Thanks so much for sharing such valuable information with us!
“I want students to discover that making art is not the talent of the gifted few but that it’s a skill you can learn.”
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