Thursday, December 08, 2011

Raising Art Literate Kids

While doing all the crafting for the Beehive Bazaar, we talked a lot about the artistic process.  They're always doing cool projects at my sis Kate's home, so I asked her to share her tips for guiding kids in their artistic endeavors.  Even though her own (numerous) natural gifts don't usually include creating art, she's raised 3 little Picassos.  Take note, she's kind of a genius.

Humbling (nay, humiliating) confession time: I have always enjoyed coloring books. Because unlike Dani, I have never been able to conceive of an original picture and reproduce it on a page. My artistic skills are much like my dad’s: I can draw a crude anchor on a kid’s forcep if they are feeling pirate-y.

Somehow my kids are mini-Danis. They can create art in any medium. I’ve always seen my job as supplying paper (we go through reams) and opening my mouth in astonishment at their talent. Usually that’s enough; sometimes it’s not. When my kids ask me to draw with them, here are my go-to tricks.

Have you ever noticed how much more creative you are within parameters? It’s like the whole world of possibility yields nothing, but one specific object or idea spouts inspiration like a fountain. That’s the idea behind the Scribble game. Each person makes a random scribble on a page, and then passes it clockwise. The next person stares at it until it starts to form a familiar shape, then adds the details to make a complete picture.

Often my kids create a new cartoon character for their on-going comic strips. I let them be my art teachers, showing me how to reproduce their originals. Even I can follow a step-by-step approach to drawing something.

Really, perfection is the problem. You want that tree to look like a real tree, doggone it. Fast draw games like Pictionary and Win, Lose or Draw! remove that inhibition , leaving you free to draw stick figures without shame.

Ditto to blind drawings. Blindfolded or eyes shut, you draw something from memory. The pictures look something like John Lennon’s etchings, which makes you feel a little famous.

Ramona Quimby made her own coloring books when her family couldn’t afford the store-bought ones. My kids are more than happy to supply drawings for me to color. I don’t have to be creative, and in the end we still have a collaborative project.  This is a picture my youngest drew for me of a video game.  I never would have noticed all the details if I hadn't colored them in.

Once I was backed into a corner to make a self-portrait (long story). I found it a lot easier to cut pieces out of colored paper and assemble them, mosaic style, than to actually put pen or paintbrush to paper. Drawing is hard, but puzzles are easy (bring on the Sudoku, Kakuro, and Kenken!).

When we pull out the recyclables to make junkbots, I’m too busy fastening on arms or cutting pieces to make my own Frankensteins. Sometimes one of my kids will notice that I did a lot of work with nothing to show for it, so they let me babysit their creations.

Cuddle time with a coffee table art book spread across our laps is enough, on occasion, to satisfy their art lust. Producing art is a hobby they can share with me. Appreciating art is a hobby I can share with them. 

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