Back in the dark ages, before I was a writer and even before I was a mom I was an artist. I have enjoyed drawing and painting all of my life and was lucky enough when I was young to make money doing something I loved.
When my children came along, I naturally wanted to help them develop their creativity as much as possible. I provided them with play dough, crayons, glue, watercolors and plenty of paper and encouragement. One thing I did not provide them with is coloring books.
Maybe it is just my own weird idea, but I prefer that my child decide how something looks. Rather than color a princess with brown hair wearing a pink dress, what if my childÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s princess had two heads, purple hair and wore combat boots? Would that be wrong? Individuality of style is something we appreciate in artists; why not enjoy the same creative freedom from our children?
So, for the very first years of their lives they colored blissfully unaware of any constraints to their creativity. I felt pretty good about myself and my abilities as a creative mom.
All too soon reality swooped into our home like a carnivorous bird bent on stealing away the creativity I had tried so hard to nurture.
A Sunday school teacher remarked to one of my children, maybe aged six or seven, that it was high time she learned to color within the lines of the coloring pages that illustrated the lesson. A few weeks later she commented that skies were yellow or blue, rarely greenish and never bright stripes of orchid and lime green. Every few weeks there seemed to be some criticism of the childÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s artistic expression until I finally decided to put my foot down.
I explained patiently that I did not want my children to automatically color trees green and skies blue. I preferred that they make their own choices in the way they expressed the world as they saw it.
Six legged horses and princesses with two heads were fine with me Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and coloring within the lines was just detail work that I found to be unimportant and mundane, at least at this young age.
I can remember that she stared at me blankly for what seemed like hours but was only a few seconds. She seemed to be trying to wrap her brain around what I had said. She finally leaned close, put her hand on my shoulder in a comforting was and said slowly and deliberately, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Skies are blue. Grass is green.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It was my turn to stare after her as she briskly walked away. She just did not get it.
No, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think a child that colors in a coloring book is going to be creatively challenged for life, but I do know that there will be more of a tendency to color in the lines, to use expected hues, and to make things look the way society will approve.
Luckily Salvador Dali, Peter Maxx, Renoir, and other artists both past and present were not afraid to color without regard to standard colors or restrictive black lines.
Do you feel learning to color within the lines is an important skill?
photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works