Yesterday at school I was coloring a picture of a turkey for a game we'll be playing with our students next week. The children love it when I draw or color, and always ask for their own pictures to take home. As a result, I incorporate art into my lessons as much as I can. It is a window for children, an opportunity; not just for learning, but for experiencing beauty as well.
I grew up in a home where art was expressed and appreciated. My dad would bring home old blueprint paper for us to draw on, its purple-faced lines and words turned over to reveal a perfect and unblemished sheet of pure white. It was the best gift he could have given us. My sister and I would spend hours making our "Calico and Numpy" cat books, and Mom would write in the dialogue since we were too young to write. I can't remember a time when I didn't have a pencil, crayon, or marker in hand to create in the world of imagination.
Often we would look up to find my mother sketching us at our play. "Don't do me, Mom!" we'd cry, though secretly we couldn't wait to see how it turned out. Her favorite remark - if we'd comment on its lack of resemblance - would be, "I'm not a camera, kids!" And how blessed we were that she wasn't.
I truly don't know how she did it. There were six of us kids and a husband to take care of, clean up after, cook and wash for and still she made time to make beautiful things. We would often find her at the kitchen table with acrylics, brush and canvas, creating something new to color our world. We would lean on little elbows, watching the picture come to life with dabs of burnt umber, denim blue and harvest gold. Finished products decorated our walls with warmth and personality, and sometimes one was given to a special aunt or close friend. To us all, they were great masterpieces.
Coloring books were a treasure around our house. We would flop on our tummies with a new book, open it up to the most detailed and lovely page and mark it with a big "M". We wanted the best to go to Mother, and we would pass the time with a box of crayons until she could lie on the floor beside us and bring our selection to life. I have vivid images of brightly colored daffodils and azure skies where she would add her own birds and fluffy clouds; an ordinary black and white page transformed into a brilliant wonder. We would try to imitate her technique, but could never quite master it.
We are all grown up now with children of our own, yet color and art are still a big part of each of our lives. We have planted the rich seed given to us at birth and watched it grow through the years. It has bloomed in many various ways in our homes and gardens, and made the view much more interesting and beautiful.
So when a child asks for a drawing or a picture to color, I give it willingly. Perhaps he or she will be the next Monet or DeVinci, and at the very least, they'll have a chance to color their own world, like my Mother did for me.