Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why coloring books?

By the end of this week I hope to have my first coloring book up for sale as an EBook on my website. The creation of this coloring book is the culmination of many years of process for me as a children’s illustrator and writer. Coloring is an activity that brings us all back to the time before many of us stopped enjoying the creative and expansive delights of making art. To a time before we experienced the frustration of not being able to portray the world we see around us accurately.

According to Betty Edwards, author of the landmark book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, “The majority of adults in the Western World do not progress in art skills much beyond the level of development they reached at age nine or ten.” This is the stage when children become fascinated by realism. This is also the stage of development where if correct and useful artistic guidance is not received by the child, their art skills stultify and eventually go into a permanent state of artistic crisis.

The beginning of adolescence creates a conflict for children between their increasingly complex perceptions of the world around them and their current level of artistic skills. They simply don’t know how to draw what they are seeing, correctly. Before the age of nine, children are less interested in realism and more interested in portraying feelings in their drawings. As any parent knows, these earlier drawings are not realistic, but certainly prolific. After the age of nine, children become desperate to capture the world as it actually is.

As an educator, I have always felt strongly that children can and should be taught how to draw accurately. They want it and we owe it to them as teachers to provide that education to them. But as many art teachers do not have a great deal of confidence in their own abilities to teach the art of seeing, they may have trouble assisting the child as required. I believe it is of benefit to every artist and teacher to look back into their own past and see if they still carry any of the blocks that may have been put there by careless comments and poor teachers. Once the blocks begin to loosen, we can begin to experience the boundless creativity and fun associated with expressing the world confidently through art once again.

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