The Mission of New-Age Art Education

 The Mission of New-Age Art Education: Developing Visual Thinking Through the Use of Famous Paintings

Going from “Looking" to "Thinking"

     Before we discuss how to teach your child to look at a painting, first consider: "Why even show paintings to children?”

    If we believe in viewing a painting for viewing's sake, it is enough to know painters' names, life stories, genres, styles, and other miscellaneous knowledge. After all, the role of art is not large or impactful in changing our lives. That is why, in addition to seeing and observing a painting, we must also think.

    "Art appreciation" has been overlooked in past education systems, where "paintings" could be seen or not seen; it really didn't matter. There was not much care for it, and a mere glimpse of art was enough. But for the children of this generation, seeing art is no longer just a game or occasional, passive input in  their lives, deserving of only "appreciation". It has become an important source of development for a modern child's "visual wisdom". In Europe, the United States, and other countries with advanced education, the new era of mission-driven art museums is all about art appreciation. Art museums assume the responsibility of using artistic imagery to develop and enlighten visual thinking education.

    In order to cultivate "visual thinking" ability, the new generation of parents can not ignore the problems facing us. Over time, the visual environment has seen significant change in its effect on our lives. Everywhere we look, we are being tempted and tested. We face media and websites with pornographic, violent, and/or chaotic content, and there is advertising everywhere. With all this, next generation of children cannot have good visual thinking to distinguish or the ability to judge.

     The human eye should not be just a passive recipient; we should discriminate and differentiate. We also need to look, understand, and interpret. The most important hope is that, through repeated exploration and training, we can develop a thorough, critical, and creative thinking ability.

    In the past we have always thought that such a visual wisdom is an artist's privilege, a special talent available only to a select few. By now, we have proved that this visual discernment can be achieved through starting individual education in infants and young children at a young age, and working towards repeated stimulation and long-term accumulation. These abilities are a "habit" and the only way to learn them is to go through the complex process of long practice that is not a part of natural growth. If a child's family and school are determined to facilitate an environment of design and intentional practice, a child can be led to "see" the wisdom. There is no need for professional aesthetics training, there only needs to be hard work and preparation with a determined attitude.

     Because artwork is a very complex visual object, it is possible to inspire a variety of interpretations. Art museums featuring masterpieces often collect art in their collections into books. These collection books can be used to guide education at home. They are the perfect teaching material for school-age children in their golden age of development. These books open "visual thinking" in children; children can choose interesting images from books, and parents can let the children read and view. But the ultimate goal is to guide thinking about a variety of possibilities, so it is very different from reading a story.

      Do not let a child only passively learn, and do not directly teach children painting knowledge. First, guide children to see, think, and express what they see. The role of parents is just to lead children to active reasoning, judgment, analysis of the possibilities. When children express their ideas from observation, sometimes their ideas will be illogical, silly, or peculiar, but the purpose of this open-ended thinking is to encourage expanding on and accumulating ideas. There is no "correct" or "standard" answer, nor are they required to have an answer.

       In the past, art lesson creations were typically the expression of human feelings or emotional expression. Now, looking at a painting has double the reward; as the viewer, we can also get inspiring information, see the captured personal thoughts, and learn from thoughts that originated from viewing artwork. We can reach deeper thinking to understand the possibilities of analysis.

       We not only hope that children can think for themselves, but also experience metacognition. In this ever-changing world of visual stimulation, children are often passively absorbing and accepting, but we can help them begin to actively manage and be the master of their own thoughts. The biggest hope and expectation of "image viewing" is to inspire children to escape the limitations of vision and learn to use the imagination to create a new method and school of thought; this is a common goal of many education systems. So "seeing" must be taught. This article only describes the importance of visual thinking education. Other articles will discuss examples and methods


This article was published in the February 2005 issue of the National Children's Paradise magazine.