August 02, 2008

Enjoying the process

I just got home from the art festival.

I was in charge of a table for children ages 5 and under. We had small canvases with designs on them and watercolors for them to paint with.

At any one time I had about eight kids huddled around the table painting and it was really fun although also - really really HOT!!!

This is the kind of stuff I just love, giving kids a creative outlet and letting them go. It was so cool to see how, even when given very similar designs, every child's painting became this unique and creative expression of themselves.

I did notice that when a few older children joined us that they seemed more inhibited and relied more on the expected color schemes (ex: a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae is always red), while these younger kids just went wild with the colors, choosing colors that they liked, going outside the lines, and combining colors in new ways. It seems the older we get the more we conform, the more we try to "fit" and we lose a lot of our natural creative intuition when we do this. Then, we arrive at adulthood and have to relearn the freedom we had so easily when we were 3.

I have to wonder if some of this conformity is something we are taught directly. So often I watched a parent jump in, grab the paint brush from the child's hand and say something along the lines of, "No, this is how you do it" or "No, use this color.", or (in my opinion) the worst, "Let me show you what you are doing wrong." It took a lot of restraint for me to just keep smiling and not to butt in. I don't want to judge these parents, I don't think they meant to be critical or limiting of their children in any way - but I really wished they would have just let their children be messy and unstructured, to paint their ice cream cones purple and brown if they wanted to and to mash their brushes into the paints with as much gusto as they chose to. To me, all of this was good. They were exploring, experimenting, creating. The supplies weren't expensive and the paints were watercolor (so no staining to worry about). So what's the harm in just letting them experience a little freedom with it? Not being a parent yet, I know I have very little room to criticize and I certainly don't think these parents harmed their children. I just have seen so many kids so inhibited in the arts and in their ability to express themselves freely and I wonder how much of it is because we all grow up in a world that limits us and tells us there is a "right" way and a "wrong" way to paint, draw, sing, dance? Whatever happened to just having fun with it? trusting our intuition? going with our gut? enjoying creating for the sake of the process rather than the product?

Eh....this is a touchy subject for me and I know I can be a bit biased on it, so I will back off.

Overall - it was a great way to spend my morning and I felt even more affirmed that where I want to end up some day career-wise is working with children again.

In the meantime I will try to remember how much I love the arts and exploring them with children and bring that to our Poblano when S/he arrives. Just watch though, I will probably have a naturally super structured kiddo who will cry when s/he paints outside of the lines. I will be the mommy begging him/her to get messy and to try painting the sky orange.

1 comment:

poppy.f.seed said...

I have had very similar experiences doing art and poetry with kids, with teachers, though. The majority of adults(and older kids) will totally correct children about the 'right way' to do things. Kids ask me, "can I make the horse green?" and I am like, "why not?"
Sounds like you organized a great event!