Thursday, July 26, 2012

Add a Little Ed Emberley to Your Summer

Pablo Picasso said, "All children are artists.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."    I'm not trying to argue with a famous dead artist, but as a mother I've noticed how fragile a child's spirit can be when it comes to the idea of artistic expression.  Not only is it a struggle to remain an artist once kids are grown, it seems to be a struggle to gather the courage to become one at all.  It takes confidence to dive into something new and creative.  Even for kids.  Our boys love art, but with each of them I remember a distinct window of time when they were unsure.  They were easily discouraged.  They could not bring the visions and beauty in their mind alive on paper. They lacked confidence.  They could have easily given up and declared, "I'm not good at this.  I quit."

Two people in their lives were tangible influences during these periods of frustration.  Both of these artists, in their own ways, gave our kids the encouragement and nudge they needed to grow their confidence and ultimately fall deeply in love with visual arts.  One of those people is Aaron's mom.  Her skill as an artist and one-on-one time spent with our kids introducing them to new mediums has given each one of our boys a confidence boost.  The other person who has been a solid part of our kids' journey into the arts is Ed Emberley.

Thanks to Ed Emberley's drawing books, at the age of four years old, Ashton was bringing me pictures like this one:

I'm not saying this picture should go in anyone else's museum (besides mine), but what I remember most about this time was how excited Ashton was about each picture he drew using Ed Emberley's step-by-step approach.  Ashton's growing confidence in his ability to draw was far more important than what he was actually drawing.  Each picture he created fueled a desire to draw another picture - to try something new.  He felt successful.

We checked out a whole stack of Ed Emberley books from the library this week.  Once again, I was amazed at how eager each of our kids were to sit down for a couple hours and create.  Surprisingly, they spent the majority of their time using the simplest of Emberley's drawing books - the Fingerprint and Thumbprint books.

We own several of Ed Emberley's books.  These are one of the few items around our house that our kids cycle through, with passionate interest, several times a year.  Every few months these books seem to get rediscovered and our home is taken over by new Ed Emberley drawings.  Emberley not only offers simple, step-by-step instructions, the themes in his books seem to resonate naturally with our kids.  Animals, nature, pirate ships, silly monsters, and trains - these are the loves of every childhood.

To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist.  - Schumann
Isn't it exciting to see a child's creativity and confidence increasing?  Is it crazy to think these moments spent with stamp pads, paper, markers, and paint are the strokes in our children's souls - gently creating deep thinkers and problem solvers?  I love the idea of our kids becoming adults who use their creativity to "send light into the darkness."

{{Our Emberley Favorites}}
Although we've never met an Emberley book we didn't like, these are the ones that seem to inspire our kids the most.

The pirate section in this book is fabulous.

Other Inspiring Links

Flower Patch Farm Girl's take on bravery, art, and children - such a beautiful read.

Judy's Art - Post about the art Aaron's mom has created for our home and her inspiring story of blooming as an artist later in life.  As a woman and mother, her story brings me such comfort and hope.

Ed Emberley's art is now featured on fabric.


mandi said...

We have these books too- and they are so wonderful to get lost in!

Catherine T. said...

Thanks for the recommendation. A question. My daughter, 5, is a super avid artist. She won’t get into the pool for swim lessons, but she’s art obsessed. She doesn’t like to follow art instruction, however, in a book or from a parent. She just wants to follow her own muse, which she’ll do daily and for hours. When do you think kids are ready for proper art instruction and/or when, in your experience, is it important to really encourage that?

Hendrick Family said...


Since all kids are different, I'll just share how things progressed with our kids.

I saw their passion grow when placed in new settings (art camps around town, or art camp with their grandmother). I think they were more eager to listen and to be "learners" when introduced to a new medium. The newness and mystery of working with new materials and having a "real" teacher - an artist whose work they could see and respected - turned our boys into eager learners.

They didn't start going to camps or doing art camp with their grandma until the age of 5 or 6.

Your daughter sounds more confident than our kids were at that age. They loved to draw, but were constantly frustrated with the discrepancy between what was in their minds and what was coming out on paper.

For that reason, I think art instruction from books and artists was what they needed.

If I was in this situation, I'd simply try a camp or a few lessons with an artist to see if it inspired growth - or frustration.


Corey said...

Love those books! Also Captain Underpants (with all those boys, certainly you have been introduced to the joys of Captain Underpants?) has a couple of books that teach you how to draw the Captain Underpants characters. Because we all need that.

Hendrick Family said...

Oh the joys of Captain Underpants (eye roll). Unfortunately, our boys love those books. I need to look for the drawing versions.


3inaugust said...

Thanks for this muse on Ed Emberley books. I will definitely look into the fingerprints ones for my (almost) 4 yr old son. His twin sister is an avid artist but he is frustrated by drawing. Maybe the fingerprint book is just the thing. My 7 yr old loves, loves the scary faces book and the animal book. These are such great resources for kids. Thanks for reminding me!

Emily Minich said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me find an art book for my boys' kindergarten! I ordered the animal one. Too bad it's going to take three to five days to get here! I am so excited about it!

A said...

I followed a link from Pinterest and I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful and inspirational post. I also really appreciate the information on the Artist and his books. This will be a great fun project to do with the kids!