As art teachers, we know these questions are laughable. Of course the process is where learning occures! It is through the solving of visual problems that our students learn more deeply and in an enduring way.
Problem solving is at the heart of what art is. We have something to express, but how do we express that through a given media? It is the struggle of creating, working through a process, no matter how antiquated, that we connect, express, and learn.
Just because you can do it digitally does not mean it's a waste of time to work analog; preparing your work area, mixing media, using tools, working through the problem, connecting concepts from other explorations, discovering new paths to an answer. What can we discover along the way?
If the product was less than attractive what did we find out in the process? Must art be pretty to be valid? We know that most of our students will not move into art related careers. Why would someone who will grow up to be a doctor, cop, librarian, shop owner, maintenance person, senator, or even stay-at-home-mom need an art experience? What's the point?
Because the most successful and contented people in their field are able to solve problems in creative ways. Art ultimately teaches us to take a concept in our minds, plan potential solutions, put them into action, and evaluate the results: plan, create, critique, evaluate.
(Or as the National Standards put it, Create, Present, Respond, Connect.)
Are all art programs created equal? I wish that were the case. I have several blog posts on this topic as well HERE, HERE, and HERE, but in a nutshell, programs where the bulk of lessons involve copying an example, often referred to as "cookie-cutter" lessons, diminish the experience of problem solving. This is because the visual problems have been solved in advance for students. Students may learn how to use tools (ruler, scissors, glue, etc.) but they will not know how to find a solution to concepts on their own. They will be less engaged in the process as well because they have not had an opportunity to incorporate themselves into their work.
And what proof do I offer for my assertions? Much is listed HERE, but we know that students who have art score higher on their SAT exams than their non-art peers by an average of 100 points. My own students were recorded by my guidance department as scoring 155 points higher on their exams. I can assure you that this is because the process is far more important than the product. I do not have "cream-of-the-crop" students, but a mix of talented, to special needs, with most falling squarely in the middle. I'd say about 10% of my introductory students have a true affinity and potential talent for art, but I teach them all, and everyone benefits from the experience.
If you struggle to make art explorations personal, see my post HERE.