Showing Art Students The Value Of Problem Solving

Creating art isn’t the place to go if you have a problem solving problems. It seems to be a never ending process of attempting to bring something new into the world and not messing up and creating mud instead.

A teacher has to make sure the students see the value in being able to solve problems and there is help.



The Fundamentals

Young people are of course constantly learning the basics of survival and being part of a community. As they study and apply what they’re learning in art, they’ll run into one problem after another.

This has to be handled as soon as possible because problem solving 1 skills will be needed just to survive. With art, you’re working with materials and techniques that messy, somewhat dangerous, and expensive. For example, a student using charcoal will have to deal with the potential smudging that can easily happen if a shirtsleeve or clumsy hand brushes across the paper.

Here, students have to work with the medium and take their lumps along the way so it doesn’t happen again. With watercolor, there is no mercy. Which colors to use and how to keep from making a mistake are for starters. Watercolor is usually unforgiving if a mistake is made and only the best can do any kind of repair on a watercolor painting once it’s goofed up.

Students should be taught not to become angry 2 or exasperated, but instead take things calmly and see where what went wrong and try to remedy it and prevent such from happening in the future. Don’t even talk about oils. One has to be a junior chemist to master oils. The various brushes, oil pigments and chemicals can lead to disaster if one doesn’t keep one’s eyes open.

That all being said, there are other problems to solve they need to be prepared for. Setting up displays, learning how each of the humanities and sciences dovetail into art so that the final work is professional and has intrinsic value. As a student continues to solve one problem after another their confidence builds and new problems don’t seem so daunting.


Sources Of Problem Solving

Believe it or not, one awesome venue for teaching a student about problem solving is in video games. The well made games teach patience, conserving resources, picking the right tool, and more. The skills needed to complete the game teach the student which faults and pluses in their character that are needed to avoid or resolve problems.

One teacher, Diane Jaquith of the Burr Elementary School in Newton, MA points out several vital issues regarding students and problem solving. Actually she had a problem with introducing the term, “problem finding”. She realized the students might be confused so she took things one step at a time.

First engaging the students to discuss problems in general and what sort of problems they encountered doing art. This then led to her slowly introducing problem finding and soon the students were up to snuff. She added to her method and all went well.


Give The Students Problems

The teacher should present problems for the students to solve. The teacher should take careful eye to see how each student reacts. When faced with a problem do they immediately engage in grumpy or fearful behavior? If so you’ll need to nip it in the bud right there.

Emphasize that if one gives up emotionally then one gives up everything and no progress made. See if the student uses reference material to clear up any misunderstandings and also to see how their art can be applied with less hassle. From concept to execution, a work of art will present problems.

Questions about composition and lighting, texture and more will arise and they’ll have to make a choice. The teacher should be there to encourage and guide but not to overwhelm the student or they won’t learn self initiative. Once the student realizes they can solve a problem and that no one will punish them for making a mistake or tease them, they’ll look forward to tackling problems and become far more self reliant in all areas of their lives. Parents will notice the change for the better and that will be a big feather in any teacher’s hat.


Art Solving Life Problems

Now comes the big game. Students realizing that they can produce a work of art that could solve other problems. For example doing a painting of a problem area in town. It may be a dilapidated building that no one has taken responsibility for. No one could figure out what to do with it or how to take it down.

Then here comes one of your students finding the structure of interest. They draw it or paint it up and some city official or engineer comes by and see s the art. They realize that the painting shows something about the structure they hadn’t seen before.

It gives them an idea on how to remedy the situation and give credit to the painting and artist. A kid experiencing this kind of scenario will then know that they can make an impact on the world to solve a delicate problem with artwork skills. Armed with this knowledge they’ll forge ahead to new problems to be solved the creative way.



As stated earlier, problem solving is part of life. We all do it a hundred times a day. Kids using their art that presents problems and can be used to showcase and solve problems is a wellspring we all can drink from. In the end, once accustomed to facing and solving problems, the student will be stronger and greater asset to themselves, the school, family, and community.


  1. Problem solving app (ItsGoneWrong)
  2. Handling anger ( Teach Your Child to Handle Anger

About The Author

Professor David Percival

Director of AHVC programme, and specialist in art and technology, including presence research, mixed and virtual reality.