Thursday, September 30, 2010

Teaching creativity, outside the lines....

Coloring outside the lines (literally) gave me a lifelong appreciation for creativity and a desire to inspire others to color outside the lines.
 In the early days of first grade, my teacher had mysteriously gone to “get a baby” and a substitute teacher person was there in her place. She gave us a white sheet of paper with three apple outlines printed in a neat row. Her instructions were to color the apples and cut them out and paste them on another piece of construction paper. Simple, apparently clear instructions, right? 

So I peeled the paper off my new lime green crayon (no no #1). Then I broke them in half (no no #2). Then I used the side of my crayon to smoothly sweep color over all the apples (no no #3). I used another forest green crayon (also peeled and broken) to color the leaves. Definitely dark purple for the stems. I did not stay in the lines, any of the lines. And I finished way before everyone else. 

Happily I raised my hand for the scissors. Scissors were monitored in first grade and doled out as needed…I don’t know why. I had my own scissors at home, they were always handy for giving haircuts to my younger siblings.

The teacher came over and frowned at my apples. She took my paper and held it up to the class. “This,” she said, “ Is not how we are supposed to color the apples”.
I was confused; I had followed the instructions?
“We should stay in the lines and use our red crayons properly.” She announced to the class.
“But if we are going to cut them out,” I asked boldly, “Why do we have to stay in the lines?” She gave me a look.
“And my grandpa’s apples are green,” I said quietly.
“Just do what I told you to do.” She replied as she gave me a new clean printed apple paper.

I guess I had too much 6 year old logic and alternative thinking for a substitute teacher. I did follow her directions but I secretly went outside of the lines every time I could. And my red apples had purple stems.
They still do.

What or who has affected your creativity growing up?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can you teach creativity?

A few years back I was asked to teach a gifted and talented group of children. I firmly believed that my class was for all children because everyone is gifted in some way. I got my way and the class was extended to any class that wanted me.
My method of teaching creativity was to use drawing as alternative problem solving.
The first challenge was to get over,
"But I can't draw".
"Well," I asked, "Can you put a mark on the paper?"
Uh huh" was the answer.
"Then you can draw," I said. The first challenge was met so I went on to the second challenge,
"Are you going to grade this?" They asked.
"Nope" I answered quietly.
"Huh?" is the collective response.
My answer usually gives me 2 minutes of bewildered looks. Then hands shot up,
"Ms. Higgins, there are no erasers on the pencils! What if we make a mistake?"
"You can't make a mistake because everything and anything you put on this paper is OK"
Then, of course, the too cool kid would ask "So what happens if I don't put anything on the paper?"
"Then you won't have any fun!"
I smile knowing that this student will probably be the one who draws the most.
And so it begins.
Can you teach creativity?
Yes, by teaching people young and old to access the right brain not just the right answer.

Next Blog: How coloring outside the lines (literally) made me into an artist.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Getting creatively organized...

The great thing about living in the Pacific Northwet (not a typo), besides the fact that you never have to water your lawn, is that the weather provides amble time to get organized.

My studio was in dire need of a muck out so I took the advantage of our recent foggy,  drizzly weather to delve into the mysterious recesses of my messes. I ran across many unfinished projects, many duplicate art supplies and many things I swear I did not put there? Now I can stop quietly blaming my husband for recycling some items I was missing.

Organizing my space has given me time to sort through many ideas (good and bad), mental blocks, frustrated attempts and find space when I thought there was none.

If you have a area or room that is your private creative space take some time (a rainy day is perfect) to find and organize this outward extension of your brain. It feels sooo good, kind of like sitting down to a big piece of white paper with a brand new box of 64 crayons! Ah, the possibilities...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Avast! it's "Talk Like a Pirate" Day!

Ahoy, me Hearties!
Heave Ho and get with it! It's Talk Like a Pirate Day! There be no better way to immerse yourself in fantasy and pure silliness than to talk like a pirate for a day. My daughter and I have been having pirate exchanges on September 19st for years now. And in case you didn't know, Seattle has it's own official pirates (of course we also have an ocean here too).
 A "real" pirate ship, The Lady Washington
Despite their reputations, old time pirates are a safe personae for kids, kind of like dinosaurs. They are scary but there is little chance of actually running into one.
What silly thing have you done lately? Suspend disbelief today, don't worry what other scurvy dogs think, pull on yer peg leg, grab yarr parrot and heave ho! Savvy???
  Katy the Sass

Some pirate reference:
Talk like a pirate site
All about pirates
The Lady Washington Blog 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gnome place like Gnome...

If you read Chuck Sambuchino's gtome on "How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack" (with lots of gnomenclature about attack gnomes), you might may just develop a syngdrome called "Gnomeaphobia" and stay ghome with your doors locked! I've always loved gnomes but those little plaster garden guys kind of give me the creeps!
I wonder does Chuck Sambuchino has a gnome de plume?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall reminds me of ...

The author, Kirby Larson has a challenge on her blog ( to write a 10-word story. The prompt word this week is 'Fall' (or Autumn). Her 10 word fall story was about saddle shoes. Some of you may wonder what those are.
They were two-toned, leather, tie-up shoes either black and white or brown and tan. Saddle shoes were always too stiff and my mom always bought them at Red Goose (where you got a prize egg!) or at Buster Brown's. I remember the took days to get used to them and they felt big and clunky and clop, clopped when you walked on wood floors. Not at all like my red Keds (see above) those were great shoes, you could run like a horse in them.
I had to wear saddle shoes and a dress to the first day of school. Oh, and an itchy cardigan sweater. I remember thinking it was terribly unfair that boys got to wear pants, jackets and penny loafers. Did you know you can't do cart wheels in a dress, it isn't lady like...just ask Mrs. Wilson my 2nd grade teacher. But you can climb apple trees if no one is looking!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September Starts and so do I...

Some people think the New Year or spring is the time for resolutions and goals but fall has been my favorite time for renewal. It started for me when the kids went back to school and the days ahead were warm and inspiring and least until 3:00pm.
Now I look forward to finishing a few picture books and doing the illustrations. I've got a million ideas for projects, a thousand ideas for more books and holy cats, I won't live for the 478 years it going to take to do them all. We'll see how far I get. What are your goals for fall?
Oh, I forgot, I won something! Go to Holly Schindler's blog and read all about it :
Holly has a Flash Fiction Challenge where she asks for writing prompts and she tries to come up with a 500 word story. She chose my prompts. Hmmm maybe I should use her story and illustrate it? Another thing to add to my lists, stay tuned...

Monday, September 6, 2010

It was a Perfect Wedding...

…hurry…wait…hurry…meet the caterer, outside ceremony, wind, meet the guests, is it going to rain?, porta-potties, don’t let the kids pee in the forest, pictures taking too long, wind stopped, forgot the bouquet, lost a boutonniere, where’s dad?, is the cake here?, lost keys, found kid, party crashers, sheriff says turn down music, is it going to rain?, we give away our daughter…no wait… I’m not ready, beautiful bride, sunset dance, hundreds of dahlias, stars to dance by, candles lit, lots of love.

It was a perfect wedding.
To my daughter Tyra and my new son Gardner,
May your life together be a perfect as this day:  
Chaos mixed with love 
and of course, a happily ever after ending!