Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Joy of Crayons

There’s nothing like a new box of crayons. Their smell – the sharp, new tips – the bright colors that just cry out to be used. I bet my feelings about new crayons are influenced by the fact that I got new ones every year for the start of school, so now they are wrapped up in the emotion and excitement of new teachers, new paper and pencils, a new desk, and new things to learn.

I watched some kids color this week, or more correctly, I watched the kids and their parents color. It seems like the parents get more into the coloring than the kids do, as if they’ve been dying for an excuse to get creative. I mean, here their kid is with a new box of crayons and a fresh coloring book, and the parent just HAS to color that tree green, or that flower red.

As I watched the coloring, I realized that one of my biggest art “revelations” involved coloring. My mom was an art teacher, so of course she never encouraged me to “stay in the lines;” she was prone to give me a blank piece of paper instead of a coloring book, to inspire more creativity.

The revelation came when I was pretty young. In a coloring book I was coloring a scene of girls sitting on a beach in bathing suits under an umbrella that I filled in with primary colors, and Mom decided to “help” me for a bit, as grownups do. I watched as she picked up a red crayon, held it above the page, and gently shaded a blotch of red on one of the girls’ bare shoulders. “She’s been sitting on the beach too long,” Mom explained. I remember staring at the sunburn Mom had given the girl, suddenly struck by the fact that there was more to this coloring book than just filling in the pictures. They could be my own, more than ever now. A blank sky could be filled with birds or a sunset or a hot air balloon. A field could hold cows or flowers or a picnic basket and blanket. I can’t help but see that very moment as when the world of Art was opened to me, truly. All by a little shade of red on a girl’s shoulder.

So if you have a little time, why don’t you “help” your kids with their coloring books. Show them what is possible. Or if they’re not around, grab a piece of blank paper from your printer and draw a little something. I know you want to.

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