Creativity and STEM

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Sometimes it seems like STEM is what makes the world go around. There is a huge push to focus on sciences and make all education technology based. We can’t deny the importance of STEM in the 21st century. Technology is part of our culture and way of life. However, that doesn’t mean that creativity should be out the window. In a race to get ahead in the high tech world, we are short changing our children of important skills. Here are just a few of the reasons why an arts education is critical to 21st century achievement. Creativity and STEM are more interconnected than you might think.

stem needs art

Creativity and STEM Soft Skills

Year after year, employers are asked what they want most in a new employee. Even though technology has been rapidly changing, skills like coding and robotics don’t ever seem to make the list. Instead, what employers want most are the soft skills. These include thinking outside the box, problem solving, and the ability to adapt. All these skills and more are provided through an arts education. Stretching ourselves creatively builds brain power for tackling more complex problems and ideas. STEM and the arts work best together, not in competition with each other.

art supllies and brushes

Understanding Aesthetics

Have you ever stood inside a Gothic cathedral or wound your way through a medieval castle? Even if you haven’t, you have probably thought about it. What is it that draws us to these antiquities? They seem juxtaposed to our modern world. It all comes down to one word: aesthetics! Builders of the past understood the desire for beauty and creativity in the world. We treasure these marvels not just because they are old or important, but because they ignite our soul.

In an effort to improve science, math, and technology skills, the arts have been pushed out of most educational models. If they are there, it is usually as a footnote or a frivolous extra. Think of what the world would be without any beauty or art. Does anyone want to live in such a drab, cold, and ugly place? Our scientists, engineers, and architects need art!


Confident adults are successful adults. Confidence and boldness are what get things done. The arts supply confidence because there is no right or wrong. Students are allowed to express themselves and experiment. They can try this and change that. The bets artists keep experimenting and refining until they are happy with the results. This builds confidence in their work and themselves.

In addition, what would the arts be without exhibits and performances? Not every piece of art will make it to a museum, however art is definitely created to be displayed, whether that is in the Louvre or your kitchen refrigerator. We make art to share it. It’s not something to be hidden away in a notebook or locked in a vault. Performance and exhibitions build internal confidence and the ability to step out and be seen/heard.


What Art Materials You Really Need

many expensive art supplies
The art store is an intimidating place. Some of the products cost hundreds of dollars. It is very overwhelming to anyone that has no idea what to buy and why they need it. What art materials you really need is very basic.
For someone that is painting and drawing as a beginner there is a natural gravitation to large sets of cheap materials. They surround themselves with these. They are pretty and pretty useless in my humble opinion.
Deciding what you need and what to buy can take many different paths.

Essential Art Materials

There are several questions to ask yourself before you run to the art store and drop $300 on paints and brushes and paper that you have no idea what to do with . STOP and step away from the art store.
What journey are you going to take? Are you going to paint one picture to give to grandma for Christmas? Do you seriously want to learn the art of watercolor painting. Do you want to learn the foundations of art and learn how to draw? Many people just want to dabble and do a little painting.
For anyone that is about to dip their toe into the water I suggest taking a small class first. Buy the materials for that class and practice over and over.
Learning to draw is something that I cannot stress enough and once you have that skill your confidence will soar. Learning to draw takes very little in the way of materials. You can draw with anything but, if you want to start with a good set of staples.

art supplies on a table

What Art Materials Do You Really Need?

A pad of Bristol paper and several different sized sketch pads
A set of pencils
Blending tools ( paper stumps and tortillions)
A putty eraser.
I also teach drawing using a set of 12 primary/secondary Prismacolor markers. These are not your normal markers. They are filled with bright juicy ink that is a joy to see on the paper.

Can I do Art without Expensive Materials?

Pen and ink is one of my favorite methods to get people excited about art again. It is a fast and easy way to get drawing. A few simple materials are needed. A sharpie ultra fine permanent marker is inexpensive. A set of 12 can be bought online for about $12 or less. These pens are my staple to carry around and doodle. I am always doodling little ideas on scraps of paper. Little ideas with a Sharpie can be transferred on to paper and then color can be added.
Art does not have to be complicated. Pen drawings are normally finished off with a watercolor wash. This is how I introduce my students to watercolor. Washes are the staple of this medium. They have to be mastered and a wash on a pen and ink drawing is very loose. Getting artists to become loose in their work is like pulling teeth. This is a great way to encourage it.
It also involves a few colors of really good quality materials.

Essential Supplies for Pen and Ink

Sharpie ultra fine permanent markers
Bristol paper ( Strathmore)
Watercolor paper ( 140lb Strathmore)
Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolor paint 5ml tubes of ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow and alizarin crimson.
A round brush

Learn Watercolor Painting

When my students have become really excited about that wash of color I move them into mastering some foundational watercolor techniques. This is normally a very intimidating medium. This is why it has to be taught slowly and carefully without overwhelming the student.
To begin they work with one color. The different tones of color are achieved by using more water or less water. This is a confusing skill to many. Starting with one color keeps the focus on using the paint and not color mixing. A monochrome picture is visually stunning.

Which Art Materials do I Need for Watercolor Painting?

140 lb pad of watercolor paper (Strathmore)
Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolor paint 5ml tube of Paynes Grey
A round brush

Learn to Paint with Acrylic Paint

There are many that have an aversion to the translucent medium of watercolor. Even if coaxed into it they just do not like it. I have found that many of my students love to keep painting with opaque paint. It is what they are used to.
When starting students with acrylic I use the same method as watercolor. They start with simple paintings and one of 2 colors.

What You Need for Acrylic Painting

Small canvases to matt boards (5×7)
Winsor and Newton acrylic paint white, ultramarine blue and burnt umber.
A set of kids brushes from Ikea. ( about $5)
These are all the basics. If you want some lessons to get you going look no further.
art projects