I hesitated a bit over giving the kids coloring pages. Even though I loved coloring books as a child, I sort of feared they might quash creativity. I suppose I must have read that idea somewhere and it stuck as a pernicious fear. In fact, though, the opposite has proved true.
Since we started doing school we begin each morning with a letter-themed coloring page at the breakfast table the art supplies come out early. Crayons and colored pencils mingle with yogurt and toast and oatmeal. And because the art supplies come out, it gets the creative juices flowing. The kids are in art mode so much more often. We paint a couple of times a week. Scissors and glue come out for all kinds of projects. Bella has been working hard at coloring in the lines and is so careful about choosing colors. She has also done more drawing of her own pictures. And has made a few more attempts to write some of the letters as well.
School has sparked Bella’s creativity in so many ways. Recently Bella was using the crayons themselves to form letters: E and F and V and H. She told me that making the letters with crayons first made it easier to write them. I suggested she could also form them out of dough and she seemed to consider it. I suspect the idea is filed away for a later day.
Also, I’ve been doing more art too. Bella begs me to sit and paint with her and I give in. Forget the laundry and the cooking… Yesterday afternoon while Ben was napping and Anthony played on the floor, I sat down between the girls with my mug of tea and a plate full of banana bread for the three of us. I pulled out my sketchbook and cast around for something to draw. I settled on one of Ben’s wooden trucks that sat on the table. Bella drew a penguin and painted it bright colors while Sophie busied herself first with water colors, painting a map, she later told me and then with scissors and glue. She said she’d made a computer.
Then when I’d drawn the car and painted it, I drew a glue stick for Bella to paint. I looked for something bright that I could paint. I settled on the blue and white shape sorting ball. I’m rather pleased with the way it came out.
And I’m thankful to my long-ago high school art teacher who used to pile up a bunch of junk in the middle of the table and tell us to draw it: deer skulls and potted plants and all sorts of odd shaped bits and pieces of metal things. I lost my fear of getting the lines wrong and learned to be satisfied with good enough. When I look at my drawings now I still see all the ways the lines refused to match the shapes in my mind’s eye; but I can also see that what I have rendered is a recognizable version of what I was attempting.
And that is the art lesson I most want to teach Bella: to be willing to try even when you aren’t sure you can succeed. To let go of perfectionism and be satisfied with doing the best you can. To try to see more clearly. I don’t try to show her any techniques or guide her explorations at all. I simply lead by example, showing her that I enjoy various kinds of art and hoping my enthusiasm is catching. So far it seems to be working. The girls want to draw and paint and take photographs whenever they see me doing so.
Back in September Bella drew a whole picture book about a whale family. It began with a daddy whale. Then there was a mother and a baby. Baby Francis. The daddy whale went to Ikea to get a bunk bed. They went to the doctor’s office. All sorts of adventures in about twenty pages of drawings. Here are a few highlights: