Art teacher moves students beyond the basics

By Page H. Gifford, Correspondent

Many children who grow up to become artists or art teachers began at an early age. They were never without a pencil or crayon in their hand. Fluvanna Middle School art teacher Margie Kritzer was one of them.

“I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember,” said Kritzer. “As a child, I thought that drawing was the best thing in the whole world. I studied the drawings submitted to the ‘Our Page’ section in Highlights magazine before I could even read. I always found a way to sit next to the best artist in the class so I could learn other ways to draw, but I never thought about a career in art.”

Kritzer graduated from Fluvanna County High School in 1982 and received her bachelor of science degree in art, with her teaching certification from James Madison University in 1986. She said it was while she was in high school she began to be influenced by certain forms of art.

She didn’t take art until her senior year in high school, and didn’t know much about art history outside of what she said she learned in her Spanish classes. Without being influenced by a specific art style, Kritzer explored and created her own.

“I had already developed my own style, which featured realistic pencil drawings in a collage format. I might have been known by some for satirical cartoon drawings when I was in high school. I used drawing to express what I wouldn’t actually say with words,” she said.

Kritzer was influenced by the surreal and repetitive patterns of M.C. Escher.

“M.C. Escher, whose work appeared throughout our geometry textbook, captivated me,” she said. “In college, my favorite art medium was black and white photography, and the works of Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon intrigued me. Over the years, I’ve developed a taste for Vincent Van Gogh. My students have always responded to Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali.”

Black and white darkroom photography has been her greatest passion, but for practical reasons pencil drawing is still her favorite.

During her time in high school she believed teaching art would be her calling, but she didn’t really accept the idea until her junior year in college. Her views of art have evolved, but her first love – drawing – has grounded her and she has passed this vital skill on to her students.

“I thought, and still think, drawing is really easy and people complicate things too much,” she said. “I love the challenge of setting up win-win situations where students of all art abilities can create something successfully for every project.”

She has her students nail the basics of drawing and use it as the foundation for everything they create. She is the bridge between elementary education and high school, where tools and projects become more sophisticated. She helps her students from fifth through seventh grade to move beyond crayons to pencils, and beyond primary colors to all colors. She gives them the base on which to build art.

Kritzer has a knack for seeing which students show extraordinary ability. Most of them have continued their journey through high school and some have gone on to study art in college. Every inch an artist herself, she embraces her own free spirit and that of her students and experiences the excitement of creation along with them. But she teaches them the basic value of drawing and imagination, which are the keys to all art as well as other inventive projects.

“I hope that my students will learn key drawing and problem-solving skills,” she said. “It is important to develop the confidence to try something new, and it is just as important to learn persistence when solutions aren’t successful. I’m always in awe of the progress that my ‘three-timers’ [students who take art in all three middle school grades] make.”

Kritzer has shared with her students the importance of practice and that it can make perfection. She believes that students may need direction in shaping their raw, undisciplined talent, while never stifling the creative spirit within.
The best part of her job has developed in recent years, she said, as the children of her former students have started streaming into her classes.

“Being a transfer to Fluvanna County Public Schools in fifth grade myself, I always admired the close relationships, built on community and familiarity, between the teachers and students,” she said. “Now I truly feel like a part of this family.”

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