Colouring outside the lines

There is something profoundly beautiful about children’s art. It is free and unbound by self-consciousness. Art wasn’t something I was encouraged to appreciate or take seriously and a part of me feels robbed at a deeply spiritual level of artistic pursuits. I envy children they are perhaps an insight to how stunted we become as we age. The ‘rules’ and restrictions permeate our awareness shaping our understanding of how things should be so we live ‘within the lines.’

Watch very young children with a colouring in book and they don’t notice the lines. But put an older child beside them and watch things change and the bringing forward the idea of ‘getting it wrong’ and making a mistake and shame. From then on colouring in the lines is the aim. The pictures offered get more and more complex but the aim is the same – to stay within the lines. The spaces get smaller and the detail more precise so the stakes get higher – one small slip or wobble and the perfect picture is ruined.

We can do better raising creative confident young people. There are really clear ‘pictures and lines’ youth are encouraged to see as successful, worthy and desirable and our education system supports this. I salute all those pushing beyond the lines, who are challenging young minds to see more than just two dimensional possibilities. Scribble with them and play alongside them and laugh at failure as it is just a line – it can be erased, moved or ignored.

So I am calling out to all those who have a connection to children and young people. Be prepared to guide and support and even ‘draw on experience’ but if they ‘brush you off’ smile and know you have given them the greatest gift, a blank canvas.


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