“If a boy can learn to draw and paint adequately or spin a pot on the wheel, he gains confidence to approach other new challenges.”
For four decades, Ned Reade has introduced generations of boys to the joys and challenges of art. And even after all that time, he remains invigorated.
“I hate it when kids say ‘I’m no good at art.’ Most of them have never really had instruction! So I teach art in a step by step process, much like teaching a language. You start with building blocks. Language begins with words and phrases and evolves into sentences and paragraphs. In art the building blocks are line, value, design, technique, and color. A line takes shape, patterns form, the composition evolves.”
However, nothing is more frightening for an artist than a blank piece of canvas or paper or a lump of clay. When the class starts a new project, Ned begins with a demonstration. He can hear the “Aha!” moment hit the students gathered around him when they see the brush strokes morph into a tree or the still life take shape. After the demo, the boys do a few sketches to help them work out ideas and approach the project with confidence.
Working in pottery exposes the boys to clay’s unique elastic nature. “Before we advance to the wheel, we start with hand-building projects such as creating masks or boxes. The box project assignment is deceptively simple: create a box with a lid. But the possibilities are endless as the boys realize a box doesn’t have to be a square or rectangle. I’ve seen kids create cars, an oversized Oreo, a NYC brownstone, a snare drum. They tend to embrace something they understand intuitively or experientially. Almost every project in art reveals a slice of a boy’s personality.”
“I enjoy doing the projects alongside the boys, especially in the advanced classes, so they can see me struggling as well. No matter how much experience you have, producing art is hard work.” Ned believes the fun comes in finding the solution. How do you draw clear glass or convey loose folds of drapery? How can you shade properly to create a spherical object? Or spin a graceful urn on the wheel and maintain a consistent thickness?
The boys love it when the process of creating art transports them into the “zone,” when they’re so focused and engaged that they lose track of time and the world around them. “You don’t have to have ‘talent’ or a background in art; you just need persistence, practice, focus, and motivation. As with any endeavor, the more time you dedicate to practicing that craft or skill, the better you’ll become.”