You've probably read "Red and Orange horses" a tale about the perils of colouring in, on children's artistic creativity. Well this story occurs two day's after I attended a wonderful and inspiring all day art course where once again red and orange horses was brought to my attention and is in part a counterpoint to it. If you haven't read it the Hunter Park Blog has a copy of it Sharon put on recently.
Now I'm still working through five pages of thoughts from the course, I'll post up sometime, but some key points to bear in mind.
It's all about
-empowering the child
-finding and supporting their passion
-their self expression
So with that in mind I come home and find my son colouring in a in picture,a mask of wags the dog, colouring in a picture! My god he'll never draw a dog again, he's ruined!
Now this picture was one he'd found for himself on the internet having navigated the many tens of folders on our favourites list to find the kids folder and then navigated the choices there to go to the wiggles website. I've watched him do it he's very literate and goes where he wants to go.
So he found the picture on the wiggles website and tried to print it, but it didn't come out right, his mum (who hadn't been to the course obviously) helped him and together they figured out how to reduce it to fit a page or found I suspect a printer friendly version rather than trying to print the whole webpage. He began to work on it, colouring both ears painstakingly and then disaster his little brother drew on it while he had tea, so they photocopied it, and Ben is already very fond of the photocopy function on our printer.
So that's where we are, Ben with the colouring in picture he has found, selected, printed and copied and having persevered to over come various obstacles is colouring, enter the teacher. :P First I noted Ben's colouring was really careful, he was putting a lot of effort into this, then I asked him what he was doing.
"colouring my picture."
"why didn't you draw your own dog?"
"I can't draw dogs." (Oh no to late!)
As he worked I chatted with him, I made the distinction to him that it was his picture, his colouring but not his drawing he was colouring, we talked about this as he worked.
I persuaded him to have a go at drawing his own dog (typical teacher interrupting the creative process) Poor photo on my part but here's what he drew. Very original ears and nose.
A photo from later.
Unfortunately this was going to be too small for a mask, rather than using the photocopier to scale it up (mainly because I didn't think of it), we fetched some more paper. In the process of returning we looked at some of my sketches and some workup sketches in drawing book I have, as a result of talking about drawing as a process of experimenting trying out ideas, techniques and making lots of drawings till you get one you're happy with.
We also ended up looking at lots of books to discover that there is no one way to draw a dog, dogs look different from different angles, different dogs look different and different artists draw dogs differently. We even counted my ears in profile and in front, one on the side none from in front (until I moved back my whiskers, then two.)
So Ben had a go at drawing a bigger face and we measured it against the mask picture for size.
After some experiments and discussion here's his cool dog, it borrows many techniques for symbolising features from the pictures and toy dogs we studied and some of Ben's own ideas like the ears and eyes with a pupil. He wanted to keep working on it and eventually fell asleep in his bed with the light on. I went to bed satisfied my little artist was saved.
Morning came and first thing I found Ben working away on his colouring in mask, his dog picture was scrunched up on the floor in his room when I found it. Ben preempted my questions by pointing out it was his mask and his colouring but not his drawing and that the one he'd drawn we could give to Alex his little brother (He knew I valued it but he clearly didn't want it).
My son is a perfectionist. Point in case I just found the original discarded printout with two carefully coloured ears and a small scribble in the middle by his brother.
After kindy he finished his mask to his satisfaction, his mum had wanted to know should she take it to kindy to finish. "Heck no! I saw his teachers at my course too, not unless you want another diatribe on the evils of colouring.:D" (Sorry teachers I know you wouldn't.)
Finished he went to cut it out, but on the last snip cut off a small piece of the cheek and cut it all up in frustration. Like I said perfectionist. Mum helped him make another copy, cut out the eyes for him and he cut out the rest, he wore it to school to pick up his sisters. Later till it broke. "This ear broke." (The left one) "I put it on cardboard next time." (When I got home he told me about it and we discussed how he could glue it onto a cornflakes box to make it stronger, he's now working on a Henry the Octopus mask he's printed.)
Ben as certainly displayed perseverance, taking an interest, and creativity as he has engaged and explored to create his mask. I couldn't say that the colouring exercise has had no value to him as an artist, it clearly has. Nor was it an easy option, as the rejected efforts and his hours of total effort showed.
So what's happened? Has all I learned about colouring books and templates been proved wrong?
Have I been imposing my judgement of what is art on his self expression?
Well I am an artist, I'm no master but I paint, draw cgi and enjoy it and I sometimes use preexisting photos of space in creating CGI spaceship art, I also use the prepackaged ship pieces in doga L3, I use templates and cgi colouring books, and trace over other peoples photos lacking appropriate models conveniently at hand. This hasn't stopped me spending hours painstakingly making my own backgrounds, indeed I study the ones others have made to explore their techniques. Nor has it stopped me making my own pieces out of a combination of basic shapes, or drawing freehand, or spending days on a painting. I vary my tools and technique with the time available, the final purpose of the piece and the flexibility I want.
Light boxes, computer software, brushes, pencils, crayon paints and tracing paper. These are all tools artists use in the expression of their passion. The techniques we use change and vary as we practice and become familiar with them and when considering who the piece is for. I also enjoy making paint from charcoal, but have never made any of my own colours save for black as much as the idea appeals.
I suspect if a child never draws a red or orange horse again it is not so much the act of colouring, but the environment, value and language place on the colouring in, or even that they simply found the results a more satisfying outlet for their self expression. Nor will it be permanent, I look at the video shown at the course of how the right art teacher unlocked the passion and shaped the techniques of year eleven students to turn them into amazing artists.
Nor I suspect is it every child's passion and goal to be an artist.
Now I wonder why Ben didn't colour in his picture? Maybe it wasn't broken up into satisfying sections like a professional colouring mask. I think we might examine tracing paper, nice fat black markers for lines and from there explore modifying colouring in pictures, designing our own, maybe we'll look at scanning and manipulating them digitally.
If it is my sons passion to colour in wiggles masks, then rather than removing the colouring in pictures shouldn't I be looking at how can I support him in his goal and at the same time extend his creativity and expand his repertoire of art skills, I think so.
" I did the face and mum did the eyes."
Can you draw a dog "Yes."
"It got scrunched up and I can't find it today. It's got lost today."
Why did you want to make a mask? "Cause I wanted to, I printed it out to be my mask and it's was somebodies else's dog picture and I printed it out to be my dog face, I wanted it to be my mask. I coloured it in and I didn't want that one so I did a different one. I can draw now and I can draw dogs."
"I'm just trying to concentrate on my drawing....okay I'm finished concentrating now."
How long did it take you to make it? "I finished it today."
Was it hard work? "Yeah doing all of it, I had some trouble with the sharp pen and I breaked it."
What did you learn about? "drawing dogs, I thought I would have it to be my mask, because I couldn't draw a dog, because I wanted a dog."
Would you like some big black pens to make your own colouring in masks? "yeah! We could dad, we could do that tomorrow, have you got work tomorrow dad?"
It's time for bed!
Bens Voice: "I don't want to go to bed I want draw my picture!"
Sisters voices: We have this little rhyme we were taught for drawing dogs faces.
Some samples of my art for comparison.
My Background Doga pieces and textures, resized and combined and with my thought.
Hand drawn in art programme.
Doga pieces with some hand drawn detail
A hand drawn ship and background created in an art programme below and doga reproduction using Doga pieces above.
Doga lets me manipulate my creations rotating them through three dimensions, various lighting effects in the software allowed me to make the sun. I also draw in pencil.
Here I've traced a photo in an art programme and added my own clothes, hair, colours
Here I created my one in an art programme using various effects after studying pictures of surf in a book.
Here I drew a rough sketch scanned it and cleaned it up in an art programme, after studying paintings and pictures of uniforms, and considering feedback from the person I was drawing it for on a more piratical original.