By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — When Bob Martin started an after-school art program 25 years ago, he never imagined so many students would attend his class and that it would have lasted this long.
Every Tuesday during the school year, Martin offers a 45-minute sketch class in his third-grade classroom at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School. Most of the young artists are in grades one through four, with an occasional kindergartener and even fifth-graders participating.
During class Aug. 28, 35 students filled the desks, sat on the floor or in chairs around the classroom for their latest lesson. After they enjoyed a snack of cookies and juice, Martin turned on his overhead projector, turned off the lights and began the week’s sketch – a fighter jet.
Martin said he chose that subject because the annual air show was coming to the Quad-City region Labor Day weekend. He tries to select a subject based on something that is happening around that class time if possible. Otherwise he selects a subject the day before.
Pressing his marker onto the clear sheet of plastic on the overhead, Martin began his lesson while glancing at a picture in a book. He explained what students would draw, the length of a particular part and provided details about the jet’s parts.
As he taught them to draw the rudder, Martin asked them if they knew its purpose. When no one was sure, he explained that it helps steer the plane. When it came to the cockpit, he explained that is where the pilot and co-pilot are located. He shared observations about wind resistance as it relates to the nose of the plane, banking as in the tilt of the jet when turning, and how engines propel the jet forward. These points were mingled with advice about how to draw a jet.
As the class finished up, Martin had students show him their drawings as they left the classroom.
Throughout his year-long class, students will learn about shading to bring life to a picture, spatial relationships, and how to build a drawing off of something already on the paper.
Students keep their drawings in a sketchbook that they provide themselves, along with a pencil.
Third-graders Emma Nelson, Kat Hartog and Grace Driscoll have been attending this year’s classes.
Emma said she likes art and has been in the after-school art program since first grade. “I just like to go,” she said. Kat is in her first year in the class and learned about it from one of her friends. “She showed me her drawings and I wanted to try it.” Grace started this year as well and said she likes to draw. “It sounded like fun.”
Although the number of students will level off throughout the school year as other extra-curricular activities begin, Martin said he maintains a good number of students. Some might be gone for a few weeks and then return.
He said that in college one of the classes he had to take was art because most teachers needed to teach it in their classrooms. Now a teacher in his 41st year, he has been at St. Paul’s for 33 years and leading the after-school art program for 25 years. Although he does not teach art in his classroom during the school day anymore because the school has an art teacher, he checks with the art teacher and school board before offering the after-school class each year.
“All we do is sketch. We don’t do watercolors. This is just a basic art class,” he said.