A few semesters ago my Art Methods instructor (the teacher who teaches me how to become an art teacher) started a class discussion on the negative affects of coloring books, claiming it destroyed creativity. Coloring in the lines is not what artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Picasso had in mind. Enraged students all around me raised their hands in agreement; out-crying at the nerve of those who professed to be a patron of the arts and yet used coloring books, even endorsed them. A large portion of my imagination and a meager piece of my memory brings up a scene comparable to Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451: students throwing bits of colored paper into the air with wild looks on their faces, banning and burning all coloring books to be found, the instructor standing on a table shouting encouragements, students declaring the reason for their failing watercolors lay solely upon the head of coloring books. Utter chaos ensuing. The only freshman in a class full of seniors, I sank in my seat, taking fond memories of coloring books with me.
There has been an internal struggle in me with the idea of coloring books ever since. What would Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, and other great artists think? Would they be disappointed in a society in which coloring books were part of most every child’s happy younger years? Do they really stifle creativity? I like to think of myself as a creative person, yet I glorified in the day when I was the proud owner of a brand new, blank coloring book.
I’ve decided that when doubt and discouragement strike, not only in a child’s art work, but in life, when it seems nothing you do turns out as beautiful as the picture in your head, wouldn’t it be nice to be handed something where all you had to do is fill in the lines with your favorite colors and have something you were proud of to show for your efforts in the end? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crutch to lean on and encourage you along until you can leave the thick black lines for a blank canvas?
I still don’t know what Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Picasso would think. But when my kids get to the stage when they realize their drawings of people look more like bacteria than humans and are discouraged and want to break all of their prized “macaroni and cheese” colored crayons, I will gladly hand them a coloring book.
(Just as a side note…Microsoft word recognizes Barbie as a proper noun.)