"Artistic Differences" by Dave Plews

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So he asked what I was teaching that afternoon.


All afternoon? Really?

Yup, all afternoon.

Really? So you must have to give them loads of input? Spend half an hour showing them work by the impressionists? Give them loads of ideas to get started with?

No, they’re kids. They have more imagination than we can ever, well, imagine. They’ve been to Mars and back via Jurassic Park and darkest Africa before you’ve been to the corner shop to buy your morning paper.

But imagination, that’s not in the curriculum is it?

It’s in there somewhere if you look. Or at least it’s in there somewhere if you use, well, your imagination.

Mmm! But surely you’re going to take advantage of the cross curricular opportunities? They could write a critique of their own, or each other’s, pictures?

No, I just want the kids to paint.

But think of all the opportunities? They could study the work of Picasso and write a biography of his life?

I just want the kids to get some paints, some water, some paper, a brush, and paint.

I think you’re underselling the opportunities.Where’s the guidance, the teaching?

I want them to look at the world around them or use their imagination.

That word “imagination” again, it all sounds a bit thin. You could get them to work out how much water they need? Count how many different colours? Look for circles, and squares, and triangles in their paintings?

I just want the kids to paint.


I think you’re being unrealistic, lazy even. There are so many opportunities that you’re ignoring. The children would love to write about what they’re about to paint, plan their great design in infinite detail, and enrich their written language with a sprinkling of appropriately placed dashes and semi-colons. They could paint a picture with words!

I think they’d enjoy painting a picture with paint.

I think it’s downright wasteful! It’s no wonder so many children can’t explain what a subjunctive clause is!

I can’t explain what a subjunctive clause is! But I know the kids like painting.

But the missed opportunities, think of all those “isms”, it’s a spelling lesson in itself! Impressionism, expressionism, cubism!

But I just want the kids to paint!

But in maths they could look at the great sums paid for famous artists work, they could calculate the average life expectancy of a great master, they could look at the proportion of red and blue needed to make purple. In History they could look at the chronology of the great masters. In Geography they could track the movement of artists from great city to great city. They could write, endlessly, about it all!

I’ve heard enough now, Van Gogh would have cut off both ears, and on his tombstone it would have read “I WASN’T A BAD KID, I JUST WANTED TO PAINT!”

Let the kids paint, forget the English and the maths once in a while, and let the kids paint!

Sayonara cross-curriculists!

David Plews is a Headteacher at Beswick & Watton CE (VC) Primary School.