"I don't like yours. It makes mine look bad...
Now nobody is going to vote for mine!"
"I think you cheated. And that's what everyone else
in our class is thinking too!"
As an artist, the last thing you should do is count the hours you actually spend working on a project. Recently I visited the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, MN (one of my favorite museums in the Twin Cities). In their gift shop was a handmade lacquer box, priced at $12,000. That may sound like a lot of money for a painted box that measured no more than 10" x 10" x 4", but... I got to chatting with the nice man who was running the store that day, and he told me that the staff had once estimated out what the hourly rate would have been for the work put in that box: less than fifty cents an hour.
That math, of course, is somewhat manipulated--the process to make those lacquer boxes does take upwards of a year and a half, but there are efficiencies in the system. Obviously that master box-maker who did that one $12,000 box was not making a single box at one go. However--art does take time to do, and if you think about the hours that you may well end up putting in before you get started... you may never begin working creatively.
I estimate that the following piece took ~24 work hours to create. Happily, there were five of us working on it (some more piecemeal than others).
Click this link for more images
This year, for my second grader's Social Studies China unit, the handout came home directing that a diorama, kite, costume, or other physical object be made for class as a "family project." Personally I think there's kindness in this directive. If parents are going to help their kids, it's out in the open, and the project can be entered on, and enjoyed, with a positive collaborative spirit. And if a kid doesn't have help or chooses to work alone because they are filled with inspiration--well, in a good classroom, that can be honored too.
Eh--I'm not sure if the message actually percolated through to all the 2nd graders' brains. The two quotations with which I started this blog post--those were in-class responses, behind the teacher's back...
"A Day in the Life." You have to do what you do because you love it. And wasn't it a fetching dragon we created?