How to Raise An Artist and How I Raised One
How to Raise An Artist and How I Raised One
"List five of your favourite interests. Now list five interests your child has that you are unfamiliar with. Can you consciously let those interests be his alone and allow those interests to blossom?"
This advice, given by Julia Cameron, author of the best-selling self-help book on creativity “The Artist’s Way”, is the best that any parent can have. Raising children who will have an inclination towards the arts is mostly about encouraging their choice, even if it does not match our ideas or expectations, making them sensitive towards the arts, and always praising their efforts.
If you wish your child to discover the limitless potential of unique, individual creativity, then nurture and “feed” their senses since they are newborns.
Read them a variety of books so that their ears awaken to the magic of lilting words and rhymes, so that vivid illustrations kindle their imagination and artistic senses, so that they can feel how unfettered thoughts and artistry can be.
Introduce them to a range of music, show them paintings, dance with them in your laps.
As they grow up little by little, let them run behind the butterfly, pick up bird feathers and dried leaves and mud, let them squish a squishy tomato, and try squishing a potato.
The idea is to constantly introduce them to the abundance and richness of “art”all around, develop a taste for the artistic – the fodder that will nourish the new ideas simmering under the surface.
NO BOUNDARIES – APPRECIATE AND ENCOURAGE ALL
Whether it is expression of thought or the space where they can express, allow them as much freedom and scope as you can.
When he was but a toddler, my son took a sketch pen and put a big blue mark on a white, hand-embroidered bedcover. I gasped. But thankfully, it was a low gasp, from a fair distance. We let the white bedcover be an experiential ground, and each day more colours started adorning it. In the eyes of doting parents – us – that was true art.
We let the walls of our home be the canvas to our son’s evolving artistic taste. This is not to say everyone will have the liberty to let art flow anywhere and everywhere, but it is our duty to try and make room. Whether it is sheaves of paper to draw on, or one wall they can scribble on to their heart’s content, or newspapers they can cut through as much as they want – we have to provide enough avenues for them to take.
And it is not just the physical space. Encourage their choices, even if unexpected.
When your daughter bangs the saucepan, don’t say, “Stop making that noise.” Instead, try, with a smile, “You like drumming I see. Let’s see what different rhythms you play.”
Whether your son copies a ballet step or a bhangra move, do not judge, just clap along.
Even if the elephant is drawn as big as the mouse, or the water is purple and the sun blue, appreciate the thought and the effort behind the drawing.
The idea is not to structure them or inhibit their thought process, but to guide them towards finding their own voice, discovering a joy in creation – the rest will follow.
As Adam Grant says in the New York Times, the first step to raise a creative child is to “Back off”.
PROVIDE RESOURCES, JUDICIOUSLY
Most creative work, from the performing arts to handicrafts, require resources. Colours, musical instruments, glue, glitter, and the list can be endless. Try introducing a generous variety to children. See what kindles their response the most. What comes naturally, or what they want to try. A child would usually like to dabble in different things before they find a true calling.
When my husband took his first steps at the Calcutta School of Music at the age of seven, they had Orff classes for a whole year – a child picked up a different instrument each week, fiddled with it, experienced their different natures. There was no rush to start mastering one. Just a nudge towards love of music and rhythm.
However, when giving them an array of things, it is important not to overwhelm the young ones with too many choices at once as they might feel lost with them, or even lose interest due to the problem of plenty. They should have enough to start them thinking and apply their skills, and preferably find multiple uses/methods with one resource. Like, origami, collage, stencil art, puppetry – all can be done with merely newspapers.
JOIN IN, SET AN EXAMPLE
When our children see us read, they get interested. When they see us respecting their choices, they start being sympathetic towards ours. So it is with creativity or artistry. At least a part of it surely is.
If you have an interest, let them watch you in action and even share in it if possible. If you are not particularly the artsy kind, follow online resources like blogs.More importantly, just be a part of your child’s experience. Follow his or her lead, dropping in ideas gently if you feel. Ask, “How would you feel if we did….?” or“Do you think we could…?” They may or may not take your cue, but it is fine as long as they are enjoying the journey and you are, too.
It is not just the hands-on experience that is important.
Taking a trip to the stationery store and looking through different poster colours to pick from, or going to the theatre together and discussing it on the way back, or visiting an art gallery and appreciating even when your child says “That painting is no good.” Ask why, and ask what your kid would have done differently. It is a process that you have to weave into your daily life so that to your child it feels an intrinsic part of their existence.
So it all adds up to this. Give your children wings to fly, then let them take their own direction. Fuel their curiosity, widen their horizon, be an unfailing pillar of support. And see your child flourish!
- Shatarupa Chaudhuri
Shatarupa Chaudhuri is a book lover, an amateur artist who loves to dabble with paints, a lazy writer, rain lover, and a self confessed chocoholic. When she isn't working her day job as Senior Editor at DK, her world revolves around her son Tubby, the mini artist in the pictures you see shared here.