As you venture down this e-newsletter, you will see photos from my visit to Waterville Elementary School (WES) a few weeks back. At the start of the year, WES acquired several copies of my Storytelling Coloring Book and distributed copies throughout the classrooms for the students to color and create their own stories. This would have been enough excitement for this guy, but the school took another step in this adventure and invited me to speak in a few of the classrooms (2nd and 3rd grade) and talk to the entire school in an assembly at the end of the day. All of this was beyond anything I could imagine, and it always surprises me where my art can take me. This was an amazing day, and I get into the details as you scroll down, but there was one moment as I was exiting the school that was really special.
I said my goodbyes and thanked all who brought me to the school as I started my way toward the front door, and I could see out of the corner of my eye a young man approaching me. Just as I walked through the first door I turned back and saw him looking directly at me trying to get my attention, so I ventured back inside. He was a very polite student extending his hand to meet me and introduce himself. He eventually expressed that he also liked drawing and he had drawn a few things that really made him happy. You could see his face light up as he spoke, and I said, "It's fun, right? To me, there is nothing more exciting than drawing!". His smile got as big as I could imagine and he said something I'll never forget, "Yeah, I love it! It's like putting your mind down on paper!".
I expressed how pleased I was with that explanation and how accurate I thought it was. He put out his hand again and said how much he liked meeting me and returned the gesture. As I walked away, and everyday since, I thought about that statement of putting your mind on paper. I've tried to describe the feeling of drawing and creating and I'm not sure I've ever heard it put so succinctly. Thanks, young man, for the new perspective.
Now, to recap the rest of that day...
I was greeted by the principal who took me on a quick tour of the hallways where my art garnished the school's walls. All of these were colored by the students and proudly displayed with many of their stories (above is just one of those many of the walls). After closer exploration into the color choices and stories told it's possible you can see the pure joy in my face as I walked through them. It always suprises me how a child creates and it's something I think of often. In fact, when I do, it's usually accompanied by a certain quote by Paublo Picasso:
"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."
There is something about the untrained eye, and the freedom to create whatever comes to you. Without thinking of anyone's acceptance and just creating to create. It's fascinating!
Soon after my tour I spent time in three different classrooms talking about personification (the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form). Something I'm very aware I've been doing most of my life. Either through cartoons, charactures, or otherwise. Yeah, I want to personify everything!
The classes were all great but I will say the 3rd grade class gave me the biggest shift in perspective as their interpretation of my drawings took me well outside of what I originally intended...and I love that!
This exercise of personifying is bascially designed to stimulate the brain well outside of the way it usually does. And it's something we do every day as we say things like "I can feel the sun smile on me" or "my car died today". We bring that personification into everything so why not bring it into creating our own reality. A very welcome reminder that provides yet another perspective on why I may do the things I do.
At the close of the day, we had an assembly complete with a pep band (who were awesome). Some of the students asked me questions about my art and creations and I'm very honored to have been invited as their featured guest. I had several students come up to me after the presentation to express their interest in what I do, and I can only hope at least one of them will pursue a career in a creative field because of something I've drawn, written, or said.
One young lady was brave enough to come to me on her own and said she had a question. Expecting a very big question she simply said, "why did you become an artist?". Slightly puzzled by the question, but I replied as simply as I could, "Because that's just what I do!", I said. She smiled with what I felt was a sense of satisfaction. Even after that moment and the time since, I believe that was as accurate and honest an answer as I could conjure up, but perhaps I could have added, "it's just what makes me happy!".
After this day, and after my interaction with each student, I had a hard time expressing what it all meant to me. This experience needed to marinate a bit, to simmer, and for me to savor the experience. I can't say that I'm done with that process yet, but I can say I know I've learned something myself. Something I knew in my heart, but needed this real life situation to varify it. I'm very satisfied that life will always teach me something, and it's nice to know we can also learn many important lessons from our youth, just as much as we learn from anyone else.
Huge thanks to Waterville Elementary School! Special thanks to the young gentlemen I met at the end of the day. Also, thanks to the young girl who quizzed me on why I do what I do. Thanks to all the students for their incredible stories and their amazing art and choices in color. I'm grateful for it all.