I am blessed to be a full-time artist and to have written and illustrated nineteen books and licensed my art to many different manufacturers. Today I work mostly in watercolors, acrylics, and mixed media but in the beginning, my medium was color crayons.
My mom taught me at an early age to keep the crayons sharpened and to color inside the lines. I took great pride in those early works of coloring book art. Fast-forward twenty-one years and, just like my mom, I taught my daughter, Michelle, how to color inside the lines as well… passing down this much-loved tradition from one generation to the next. Michelle was five years old when I heard a woman from the community college give a talk on encouraging artistic creativity in children.
The words of wisdom she shared that day would be instrumental in shaping the future of my daughter forever. I was so surprised when she said to get rid of the coloring books, but I listened intently as she explained how they hinder originality, stifle imagination and block creativity. It made sense. Instead, she recommended large newsprint paper tablets, wrapping paper, and even flattened paper bags. She also suggested removing the wrappers from the crayons and breaking them into different sized pieces, encouraging the child to use the broad side of the crayon and not just the pointed tip. The use of chalks and markers was also encouraged, as well as experimenting with found objects to use as paintbrushes. On my way home that day, I stopped and bought Michelle that large pad of newsprint paper. Together we tore the wrappers off the crayons and broke them into various lengths and she began to experiment with the broad bold strokes they created.
Over the next few days and weeks, we explored our house and yard, looking for anything that would make unusual marks. We smashed the end of a branch until it resembled a primitive paintbrush. We sliced celery sticks to use for stamps. She loved it. It opened the door for her to begin to create outside the box and color outside the lines and she still does. Today Michelle is also a full-time career artist and owns her own business. Her art is creative and imaginative. Her style is bold, bright and whimsical. I believe, giving her permission to color outside the lines as a small child, set her free to think outside the box… to be creative in her art and in how she lives. Willing to be different. Willing to take risks. Confident in the unique woman God created her to be.
As for my style, up until recently, it’s always been more illustrative… precise, controlled and traditional, But I’ve recently discovered that one is never too old to learn to color outside the lines. So how about you? Are you ready to break some crayons and set your child, or even your own inner child, free to be more creative?