Mark Kistler is an artist who has taught millions of children through his PBS and public television shows as well as his regular appearances at class assemblies across the nation. Now he is also helping children learn as part of their homeschooling curriculums every Monday on his MarkKistlerLive.com webcasts. I caught up with Mark to discuss drawing and the importance art plays in education.
Tenderfootmom: Until recently, our son Cam wouldn’t pick up a pencil after his art teacher told him he couldn’t draw, but since he started watching some of your vlogs as part of his homeschool art lessons he draws almost every day and even asked for two of your books for Christmas -Draw Squad and Imagination Station – luckily Santa delivered!
Mr. Mark: FANTASTIC! I love hearing how my YouTube channel [TFM – you can find some fantastic vlogs on Mark’s you tube channel just like the ones that inspired Cam at https://www.youtube.com/user/MarkKistler/videos] and my MarkKistlerLIVE.com webcasts are igniting students imagination and love for drawing around the world.
Q: What inspired you to start drawing and then to help kids to learn?
A: I’ve loved to draw since I was a baby in my high chair drawing pictures with my fingers in the mashed potatoes (according to my mother). When I was 15 years old, I started teaching kids how to draw in after school classes at my local parks and recreation facility. I enjoyed teaching so much that I added another day, another city until I had 10 cities going…all after school driving in my old Vega! I definitely caught the teaching bug and discovered I had a unique ability to connect with students, inspiring them with my passion and enthusiasm for drawing, animation. ART!
Q: Is it really true that anyone can draw well?
A: Absolutely without reservation, YES. Anyone who wants to learn how to draw CAN. Drawing is a LEARNABLE communication skill. Drawing is VISUAL COMMUNICATION. Drawing communicates what a person is thinking, feeling, dreaming, pondering. Drawing is the window that interfaces a person’s imagination with the world. A fun example I like to use in my MarkKistlerLIVE.com Monday homeschool classes, is the comparison with your brain as your computer, your pencil is your computer mouse or stylus, your paper is your computer screen or tablet.
One of Cam’s favorite things to draw now is your character “Genius Pickle” who seems to appear frequently in your pictures in his infamous adventures.
Q: What’s the dill with the pickle?
A: LOL! It’s a great simple shape to form, shade, define and add “extras” to. You’ll see I feature “Ninja Eggs” in drawing lesson adventures, as well as bananas, and marshmallows. They are simple fun objects to build characters, stories, then backgrounds, then cities and worlds!
Cam has been working on making his pictures “come alive”.
Q: Why did you choose to focus on 3D drawings and how does it help build children’s critical thinking skills?
A: Drawing in 3-D helps a student think in multiple dimensions. Students that understand and acquire the skill of 3-Dimensional drawing typically score 10-12% higher in just about any testing situation. I believe one of the main points of education is to teach students how to be creative problem solvers, communicators, innovators, and good citizens. A student that masters the skill of drawing joins a very small elite group of 3-D thinkers and problem solvers.
STEM education is something that has achieved particular recognition over the last few years for the benefits it brings to children’s’ development and how it will prepare kids for future success in the modern world.
Q: In your opinion, how does art feed into STEM to make STEAM?
A: I agree that Science, Technology, engineering, and Mathematics are important global curriculum pillars. HOWEVER, what’s the point of all this information acquisition without deliberate application? To solve a problem with deliberate application of information requires IMAGINATION. One example is how in the world did scientists park a mini SUV on the surface of MARS? Through problem solving the science with relentless application of creative thinking. I believe our nation’s curriculum goal must include or perhaps feature the Arts as our endgame. Thus the reason so many Art Educators push so tenaciously for a stronger acronym curriculum guide….S.T.E.A.M.
Q: Why is it important to include art under the STEAM banner rather than leave it in its own category as some people believe it should be?
A: I believe ALL curriculum subjects must lead up to a student’s ability to apply information with imagination for creative solutions to our society’s challenges.
Art is not always seen as a core component of a curriculum, but more as an elective, especially as children get older.
Q: What are your views on this?
A: What do all of our leaders, teachers, scientists, Doctors, builders, citizens strive to do after they work all day in the arenas of science, technology, engineering and math? They go to museums, galleries, plays, symphonies, ballet, movies…and yes, Comic Conventions! :). My point is the arts celebrate human creativity and reaffirm our indomitable human spirit. Shouldn’t something this important to our species be recognized as such and taught at every grade level, at every campus, incorporated into every subject?
You like to use drawing to reinforce positive messages like self-image, goal setting, dream questing and environmental awareness to inspire children.
Q: How important is it that children learn to draw and more importantly love to draw?
A: I can share that learning to draw, learning to LOVE drawing has brought my life tremendous joy, confidence, determination and an absolute belief that your dreams can come true with applied imagination and willingness to work harder than you ever thought possible.
Cam loves your characters and wants to develop some of his own.
Q: He would really like to know how you think up ideas for new characters and drawings
A: Doodle! Draw! Sketch! PLAY with those shapes, those feet, those hands, eyes, and that wonderful crazy wacky HAIR! Your sketchbook is your imagination playground! You can create a flying ninja banana chasing an alien marshmallow across the surface of the moon!
Following the interview Cam wanted to send this message to Mark and other kids:
I would like to say to Mark that he is awesome at drawing and thank you for making art classes fun!
To other children if you don’t find learning to draw fun then you will be surprised at what you can do and how much fun it really can be. Mark really inspires children to draw with his good imagination and his amazing drawings which come to life! x♥x