HS Art – Progress Over Perfection

by | Dec 16, 2021

Progress over perfection is my mantra for the high school level art class. I am a continual recovering perfectionist and can empathize with the many students I encounter who get discouraged when their work does not meet the ideals of their expectations. Perfectionism can be a good thing – it motivates effort and fine-tunes attention to detail; however, I’ve seen it completely shut down students when they are so attached to their desired outcome. Acceptance and detachment is something that comes with time. I really try to emphasize the things going well in their work, the nuances (happy accidents) but also not ignore that sometimes it’s also okay to own a true mess-up and start over when needed – or move on. It is unrealistic to expect to be good at all art types and materials.

That said; I am so proud of this group of students! I usually feel like I’m looking at a mountain to climb at the start of the semester because the initial baseline drawings reveal a range of skills and abilities within the class. How do I possibly instruct them all so that there is growth for each student? The answer is faith. I plant the seed. God makes it grow. – Paul was talking about the gospel but I love the analogy so please forgive that I pulled it from the context here.

The students draw the same still-life during the final week of classes and compare it to the one drawn at the start. While many go into the second drawing doubting that there’s been growth, some even say they expect it to look worse (??), and yet when they put the drawings side-by-side every. single. one. has areas of improvement. Witnessing the surprise at themselves is one of the joys of this job.

This class, unfortunately, had bookend blog posts, but they covered color theory using watercolors and oil pastels since the first post. They selected a Bible verse numeral reference to overlap in the style of Jasper Johns and completed a postcard-style oil pastel drawing from a reference image.

Their final was a collaborative assignment: each student selected a portion of Kandinsky’s Composition IV to complete using their choice of colored pencils, watercolors, or oil pastels. I love ending a semester on this type of project!


The advanced high school class also used oil pastels to complete a drawing inspired by the work of Carmen Giraldez. The students responded to the prompt “Memory” and completed this assignment using Giraldez’s monochromatic theme with a section of true-to-llife color. This was the first time using oil pastels for both students! Their final is to complete an artwork that will be the first of a body of work based on a theme they selected at the start of the semester and have been developing 5-7 visual ideas for. I am so pleased to see these students back in the spring semester! It has been a joy and honor to teach them.