Art: Product or Process?

By | 2018-01-16T16:47:50+00:00 September 22nd, 2016|

Experimenting with different art materials allows artists to discover and create works that can express meaning. In the elementary art classroom, it is important to give students the time they need to play with and discover the unique properties of different mediums. How could they create with it until they have an understanding of what it is and what it does? You have to decide whether your objective is product or process.

product or process

Like teaching, the process of art making can be messy.

As a teacher, I’m always concerned with the:

  • objectives
  • state standards
  • elements of art
  • student engagement and safety
  • class climate
  • and assessment.

product or processI have always looked at my students’ art works as products, but in the last few years my students have taught me that they need time to explore and play with the materials. With all of the curricular demands on students, they need to be able to play and discover the world on their own. When I’m creating with a new material or medium, I need to play with it first, too! They forced me to ask myself the question “product or process?”

Educators need to reflect on how lessons are working for their students, and listen to what they need. Do they need time to mix colors to discover twenty ways to make brown? Does a fourth grader need time to pet a really fuzzy pipe cleaner? Do some students need to spread creamy slip all over their hands so they can understand the properties of clay? Today, I watched a third grade student color the back of her hand with marker. Later, when I asked her what happened to her hand, she said, “Oh, the marker slipped.” No, there was way too much marker on her hand for that! Perhaps she needed to experiment with how that might feel on her skin.

product or processOne particular student helped me realize this need for experimentation. Last year, during a 1st grade found-object printing lesson I decided to take some pictures of students with their creations.

All of the students loved the printing experience and one particular student actually said, “This is the best day of my life!”

What a great thing for me to hear!

I asked this child why today was the best day of his life, he explained, “Look at how cool my hands look! Now that is ART!”

And so I was reminded, by a 6 year old, that the process of learning and experimenting with different media can be more meaningful to students than any product.

What do you think? Are process and product equally important? Or is one more important than the other?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment below!

Amy Traggianese is an elementary visual arts educator and has been an art essentialist at a Connecticut Higher Order Thinking (HOT) School since 2001. A former kindergarten and first grade teacher, she has over 25 years of arts integration experience. Amy specializes in integrating language arts, math, science and technology into the art curriculum. She presents at local and national conferences and at HOT School Summer Institutes. Amy is also an active educator voice on Twitter, helps to facilitate #CTedu on Tuesday nights, and loves to connect with other educators through social media.


  1. Debra September 22, 2016 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Great reminder of what is important. This also translates into the use of art when explaining scientific principles

  2. Nancy Fishell September 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Amy, I’m doing a workshop at CAEA on this exact topic!

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