Chasing the bone

Courtesy: Robyn Hobbs Photography

Do what you’re wired to do.

Each school year I am fortunate to teach amazing, creative individuals. Some are naturally gifted and draw in perspective (before really knowing what that is), they match and mix colors and they understand tools and their uses with very little teaching required. It is fascinating to watch these kids problem-solve as they intuitively seem to know how to tap into the right side of their brain.

In contrast, there are also students who, perhaps, aren’t as naturally talented, but they wish they were! They so badly want to draw correctly and learn about the elements of design! They sit up front and pay attention to every morsel of detail I talk about when introducing a new lesson. They are observant and are wonderfully teachable. At the end of a school year, these children often out perform, or rise above the more naturally talented students because of their eagerness to perform and learn.

After teaching kids for a full year, their problem solving skills have been highly sharpened and they don’t get their feathers ruffled when I look at a composition and say (with love), “Too boring. What can you do to capture the viewers attention?” I often role play being in a museum, as an onlooker, and I race by many, many works of art and then . . . BINGO! I stop in my tracks as one artwork seizes my eye and won’t let me go. “Why is that?” I ask. I often give the example, when applying color to an artwork, that the color should bounce around the canvas, like a ball in a pinball machine racking up points: “Bing! Bing! Bing!” They laugh at me and then add their splashes of eye-catching color to their masterpieces.

As human beings, we ALL have the ability to create. In our consumer-driven culture EVERYTHING we see that is man-made started out as a drawing somewhere. If you had the time and energy to research, for example, the coffee mug you drank coffee from this morning, you would eventually track that mug back to a work order and I’m willing to bet, somewhere in that manilla folder (or desktop folder) would be a drawing of it, first visualized by its maker. Objectified is a film worth watching that stunningly shows this process in the field of product design. Art teaches creative problem solving and those of us that can do that are badly needed, especially in this economic downturn. In Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, he explains why, in the future, creative individuals will take the best jobs in America and around the world.

One of the most frustrating things I experience as a visual art teacher is watching parents and institutional staff subterfuge the most astonishing, creatively talented students into majoring in business, or convincing them to take over the family insurance agency, for example. It’s not that the skills learned in these environments wouldn’t be useful and productive; I’m sure they would. But what would happen if parents, teachers and institutions would actually support a creative kid to keep on being creative? What amazing discoveries might be made! What could possibly be imagined to help people get clean water, get shoes on childrens’ feet or build houses out of trash?

In A Whole New Mind, Pink highlights an interesting story about the importance of DESIGN. It is so important, says Pink, that consumers, having dozens of toilet brushes to choose from, may select one based on the way it is designed. This could mean the curve of its handle or the pattern of its bristles. Most toilet brushes can do the job adequately, but more and more people want a toilet brush that is not only designed well, but made in pleasing colors.

And, one last thing: (parents) please don’t inculcate your children to attend the college you went to. When I see a 5th grader drawing their parents’ alma mater logo onto their papers, it makes me sad. It tells me that this child may not hear his heart-voice but instead is already hearing his expectation-voice.

I’m working on an eBook, that I will make available by year’s end, on creative career choices. This book will be a resource for students, parents, teachers, administrators and anyone interested in partnering with creative souls for a lifetime of creative pursuit.

In closing, I’m attaching a short animated clip made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame) featuring a small segment of an Alan Watts lecture. Please watch it and re-watch it and send it to all your friends!

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4 thoughts on “Chasing the bone

  1. In reference to your analogy of color bouncing around the canvas like a pinball machine, I thought you were going to say, “They laugh at me and then they ask, what’s a pinball machine?” Thanks for introducing me to Alan Watts. I’ve been listening to him for the last hour! Interesting.

  2. From Alan Watts and South Park creative duo video:

    “You were suppose to sing and dance while the music was being played.”

    Ah, so true, so wise! Thanks for posting this link and writing a fabulous blog.

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