I admire how small children can sit down with a blank piece of paper and some crayons and happily start coloring. Finger painting is messy joyful fun. At some point, kids lose that natural ability to create, and the mindset of trying to make “good art” that other people will approve of sets in.
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to volunteer once a week in a local elementary school. I requested to go in during the afternoon art class. Each week, I would assist the kids with an art project while the teacher used the time to work on grading papers or other administrative tasks. I think it was a third-grade class.
One week was a St. Patrick’s day project. The kids were to trace and cut out shamrocks on construction paper, paste them to a large piece of paper, and color in the shamrocks with a looping vine between them. Initially class started off like the others, where I worked on assisting the kids with the basic mechanics of cutting or making sure no one ate the paste.
When it came to the coloring, it made me sad to see how the kids were trying to copy the sample art at the front of the room. The teacher had told me to hold up sample work as kids were making art to give them praise and feedback. I got an idea to discuss their art like I was talking about its artistic merits for a college art class.
I looked for kids NOT following the example. I discussed the importance of thin lines and thick lines for contrast, how circles could be large or small, and some shapes could be colored in versus an outline. I encouraged that the different shamrocks options were interesting to see.
The kids quickly caught on that anyone not following the example and finding their own expression got praised. The enthusiasm rose up in the room and they sought new ways to color and create. It was a proud moment when a little girl started using letters and numbers in varying sizes on her shamrocks. I explained how letters and numbers were an art form too in how they were drawn.
I could see the teacher looking up and eyeing me occasionally over her stack of papers. At some point, she stopped and asked the class, “So class, no one describes our art quite as Miss Laurel does?” The kids cheered with “yeses” and “yeahs”.
It is amazed me how quickly the kids rediscovered their innate creativity with encouragement and guidance. I do wonder if when the kids showed it to their parents, they had the same appreciation of their kids’ art?
When people tell them they can’t do art. I will share this story. I will ask them to remember back to being a kid who was excited for a new box of crayons and wanting to dive into coloring just for the joy of creating. I challenge them that maybe they can create art but need to get back to being in the moment as an art meditation.
I hope you find ways to find joy and creativity in your life so you too can remember how to color like a kid.
Spirit Playbook Artist