Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 9: Lessons in Coloring

As a kid, I loved coloring. As an adult I still enjoy it! I just find it so relaxing.

Ellie Faith's first piece of art work. 
Ellie Faith seems to have inherited my love for crayons and paper. She colors no less then 3 times a day. Her morning coloring session is her longest and lasts on average 30-45 minutes. I usually am "coloring" with her about half the time. We work on our letters, colors, and shapes (futilely for the most part at this point.)

"Bumbo" is what Ellie calls coloring. Her first coloring book, from the dollar store, was a Dumbo the Elephant coloring book. She has not seen the movie yet, but she has always been intrigued by elephants. She also can't say Dumbo yet, so bumbo it is.

She also has a very thick sketch pad notebook that we bought her at the end of July. She has already covered every single page with some sort of color and scribble. It may not be impressive to 99.9% of the population, but to me, it is way more impressive then any piece of high dollar art work. I am quite sure I will never throw this sketch pad away.

The more she has learned about coloring, the faster she goes. We used to be able to stay on the same page for days. Now, we are doing good if we stay on the same page of her coloring book or sketch pad for more than 60 seconds. Its like a furious color, scribble, flip page, color, scribble, flip page, repeat.

Over the past few months, as Ellie enters more deeply into Toddler-hood, her personality, opinions, and emotions are becoming more and more evident. And I am afraid she is a wee bit obsessive. I realize fixation is a completely normal developmental stage for her, but this is beyond that. And she comes by it honestly from both myself and Jared. So I am more then a little worried about her developing some severe OCD tendencies.

In addition to this, she is the oldest child of two oldest children. Both her dad and I can be perfectionists.

While a touch of OCD and perfectionism can be great qualities in life, I never want them to paralyze  or limit her. I understand what that can be like.

So what does this have to do with coloring?

I forgot to mention, we color outside a LOT as well.

I have a very vivid memory of coloring at church during my mom's bible study session. I remember the children's teacher that was with us (none of kids liked her... she didn't play with us, was pretty militant, and her kids came with her and they were bullies). I remember where I was sitting, and who was with me. I was probably 5-7 years old. I was coloring a nature page that had a lion on it.

I don't remember what else was on the page because I was so focused on getting the lion's color just right/realistic that I never made it past coloring the lion. Lions aren't the yellow, orange, tan or brown that the crayon box contains. They are a mixture of all those colors. The mean teacher told me I couldn't keep all 4 of those crayons but had to share them (see what I mean about militant?:) ) So in addition to obsessing over getting the lion just the right realistic color, I had to wait my turn for the colors I needed. Hence, only the lion got partially colored. I remember I got the body they way I wanted it, but the mane was still a work in progress.

This is just one incidence. I always got hung up on finding the most realistic color for whatever I was coloring, and would get so frustrated when/if the right color combination couldn't be found. I wouldn't even color certain things/pages because I knew there wasn't the right shade(s) to obtain a realistic color.

Another way the perfectionist/prideful part of me inhibited my artistic attempts had to do with coloring inside the lines. If I slipped outside the lines just a little bit I have been known to rip the page out of the coloring book so no one could see my mistake.

Those above two paragraphs describe a completely normal relationship most kids have with coloring, right? I certainly hope I am in the minority here!

Those paragraphs describe how I limited myself, not just artistically, but they are also example how I limited myself in life.

Perfectionism, obsessiveness, and pride can do that to you when left unchecked. When bridled and guided correctly, they can you accomplish greatness.

When Ellie Faith and I first started coloring together, primarily in her coloring book, I found myself trying to teach her appropriate colors and the importance of coloring within the lines. And getting frustrated that my 16-17 month old wasn't going along with my instruction. Thankfully, I snapped out of it pretty quickly, and vowed to immediately do things differently. Instead of making realistic art work, we were going to dive into the uncontrolled creativity of the toddler mind.

Ellie is a kid. I want her to enjoy being little while she can. There will come a time when appropriate color choices and staying within the lines of life will be important. But we aren't there yet.

I want Ellie to be able to tap into creativity without worrying about the end result not being perfect, or worse, what if people think its silly or don't like it. She has clearly displayed she has her own unique sense of style, even at her young age. She seems to have quite the imagination as well. I want to cultivate these aspects of her inner self, to give them deep, well grounded roots, so that they steer and hold her steady in the later years of her childhood/young adulthood as she comes into her own.

Like “Wayne Gretzky said," a You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Granted its a sports metaphor, and we are talking art, but it still applies. I don't ever want her to be afraid to at least try something new, creative, or outside the box. Even if it means trying something out of the norm for her

Some of us don't come into our "brave" until later in life. I was one of those. Even though I was always fairly confident in who I was, I wasn't brave/adventurous enough to really display or express my own unique individuality. I hid the places where I wanted to color outside the lines

If any random individual was to look at the artwork Ellie and I create they would probably think we were tripping on acid!;) Lines are rarely stayed within, and color schemes are extremely psychedelic. Why can't elephants be teal with painted magenta toe nails, water be orange, or monkeys be purple? 

I only said I liked to color. Never claimed to be Picasso :)
I want Ellie to learn to express herself, comfortably and confidently. To be proud of the lady God hand crafted her to be. To not allow herself to be controlled by the lines of society. 

... And just to clarify, by lines of society I mean constraints not related to laws, morality, or faith.:)
And so, even though it seems simple and mundane, we will continue to color outside the lines, use unrealistic color schemes, and only spend 5 seconds at a time on a page. Maybe this exercise has absolutely no life lessons what so ever, but I like to think it does. 

If nothing else I think it will give us a platform for a conversation on this topic in the distant future, when she is struggling with the colors of and lines of her life and personality. 
Be free and color wild, my sweet girl. 
Be colorfully free in who you were created to be.

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