I always try to remember that creativity is so very important and keep it at the back of my mind while planning our family time together or children’s free playing time.
Music and art tend to be somewhat overlooked at school for obvious reasons of ‘having to meet the targets’ in what is usually considered to be the core subjects like English, Maths or Science.
To be fair my children’s school is great academically and is definitely trying its best to pay enough attention to music as well as art but as it is a state school the funds will always be an issue and there is only that much one can do (it is doing its best though!).
Arthur went to the school trip yesterday to Orleans House Gallery. They looked at the Transport exhibition which has been created entirely from the recycled materials by the local children (mine went there with their dad on one Sunday to contribute their ideas and created the ‘Underground’ sign – see the photo below ;-)).
The children created models of different mode of transports with clay and had some free play session at the Orleans park and the swings (he has a brilliant teacher who understands the importance of ‘play and learn’ concept!).
But why is creativity so important? Well is is not only fun, it teaches so many different skills I cannot simply understand why it is not being taken more seriously by some of the parents…
I have watched recently the programme titled ‘What artists do all day’ with Tracey Emin and although I am not fan of her drawings/ installations (at all – sorry) I found looking at the process she creates her drawings very revealing. As a 51-year old, she has now moved on from her initial ‘shocking installations’ although the subject of sex and nudity are still at the forefront of most of her drawings.
But what I found interesting is that she was never able to draw, well not until she took some 7-years long life drawing classes, studied in depth all that was there to be learnt on the subject until she has fully emerged herself in it and emerged as a confident drawing artist. All this after she was already a successful artist, after what we all remember her ‘Unmade bed’ and other ‘ridiculous’ (in my very private opinion) installations.
She has also revealed that her inspiration comes from these little sexual photographs from the Edwardian period which she collects and then tries to copy making her own sketches. But if so, is copying the existing images (from an old photograph) into your own work can be considered as being creative or is it mere ‘copying with its own mark on’ kind of thing?
I suppose she is trying to interpret something which is already there although old fashioned and very much forgotten using modern ways of expressing and hence giving these images ‘a second life’ if you like as otherwise noone would really look into them.
Interestingly, during the recording she was meant to ‘tackle this huge white piece of canvass’ hanging in her studio for a while but she was not able to draw enough courage and strength within herself in order to be able to do it. She explained it made her feel intimidated and she needed to be in a ‘right frame of mind and draw in all her courage’ in order to start working on it.
And now, how often are we doing the same to our children, sitting them at the table in front of A3 white piece of paper and some paint or crayons and ‘ask them to paint/ draw something’. And what is our surprise if some of them will simply stare at the blank page for a while and then stand up saying ‘I don’t want to paint/ draw’.
So often it is the end of our children’s creativity journey as we sadly conclude (hopefully without saying it aloud) that unfortunately ‘they don’t like art’ or ‘are not creative types’ or ‘art does not interest them’ and close the Creativity chapter just when we supposed to be opening it!
Such a shame really. As more often than not the children may simply not be in a right frame of mind or not knowing what to do with all this white space ‘staring’ at them or not confident enough to transfer their ideas into paper or simply too tired/ too excited about something else at this moment in time.
I believe that each and every child is creative, especially in those early years as they don’t have any preconceptions as yet, they are not afraid of being criticised or ridiculed or being pressured for time/ money/ space so are more relaxed and so ready to explore!
It is often the case of finding the right ways and the right means for them to express themselves.
By the right ways I mean helping them to begin i.e. some children may love the freedom of huge white space waiting for them ready to jump in and start putting its mark as soon as possible. However some may be too scarred and so we should try to help them by getting ‘one of these Edwardian drawings out’ (ha ha anything but these please! 😉 I am trying to draw a parallel in here of course ;-)) and ask them to copy it or draw a story with it or incorporate all or some part of it into their work. Some children are full of ideas while some needs a bit of help to get them started until they find their own, comfortable way of finding their inner creativity.
By the right means I mean trying to experiment with different creative mediums and I do not only mean painting, drawing, play dough or moon sand. I also mean ‘playing’ with food or cooking – some children simply love to cook, love creating new dishes with different ingredients, experimenting with different flavours, textures and smells!
I personally love good quality food and cannot think of a better marriage (except my own of course ;-)) than Great Food and Great Art ;-). I am a huge fan of ‘Italy Unpacked’ programme where Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli visit different parts of Italy and learn about the region by looking at the local art and cooking the local dishes, both the the highest quality as you can imagine!
And so if our children are totally adamant and refuse to experiment with any artistic medium then perhaps we should try at least to introduce them to the visual and culinary pleasures, by showing them the true beauty of good quality art work or perfectly made dish. We could tell them how much creativity has gone into making these things and teach them to recognise the true beauty in things.
It reminds me of a passage I read to my children the other day from Roald Dahl’s ‘Boy Tales of Childhood’ where Dahl’s father would take his pregnant wife for the ‘glorious walks’. These walks consisted of him taking her to places of great beauty in the countryside and walking with her for about an hour each day so she could absorb the splendour of the surroundings.
His theory was that if the eye of a pregnant woman was constantly observing the beauty of nature, this beauty would somehow become transmitted to the mind of the unborn baby within her womb and that baby would grow up to be a lover of beautiful things. How very touching and beautiful is this!
But most important of all, we should always try to convert one message to our children namely that each of them is capable of creating something beautiful, something unique to themselves and their own mummy ;-). Something which to others may not appear so very special but what is of a non-monetary value to us, their parents.
Being creative helps to teach our children cognitive skills such as counting or scientific thinking. Creative thinking involves imagination, basic use of the scientific method, communication, physical dexterity and exertion, problem posing, problem solving, making interpretations and using symbols which helps with literacy skills.
All these but perhaps most important of all it teaches confidence of being able to express yourself, of being able to see their own efforts as special and unique therefore worth pursuing despite all the criticism our children will inevitably encounter later on in life.
I always try to tell them that they have to listen but they don’t have to take everything on board and try to please other people by all means. There will always be someone criticising their work or not ‘liking them’ or not getting on with them and that is fine. That is part of the world we are living it and the sooner our children understand this the better.
The point is to teach them to react well to these criticisms, to respond with dignity and kindness and understand that there will be that many different point of views and ways of doing things as there is different ways of painting the very same landscape everyone is looking at.
And I found that the best way to convert all of the above is via creativity as it is a base not only for these ‘core school subjects’ but also for these ‘core life values’ they need to be able to master to be happy and fulfilled later on in life.