• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Saturday, January 23, 2016

on coloring

Coloring is big right now. Real big. Everywhere you look, you see coloring books. Adults are coloring big time. So it's not just for kids anymore.

So what's the deal?

Coloring is relaxing.
Coloring is meditative.
Coloring is great for fine motor practice.

But let's be honest. Coloring other peoples' drawings is not the same as making art.

As an art teacher who works hard to make sure that my art lessons are a combination of instruction in specific techniques or subject matter and a focus on kids' own creativity, the proliferation of coloring books and the focus and attention on coloring is something I look at with a dubious eye, because I know that a drawing of a family created by a child is so much more interesting than a coloring page of a family.

Coloring is fine, but it should not be used replace real art instruction, especially in today's standards-based, test-heavy classrooms where students creative opportunities are already cut to the bone.

Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-coloring. But I am pro-art education, and I know the value of allowing students to create their own masterpieces. That can never be done with a coloring page, because all the student is doing is filling in somebody else's idea. A student who draws herself inside a tent on a rainy day with the sun shining and flowers growing is learning a whole lot more than a child coloring in a traditional picture drawn by an adult.

In classrooms, coloring pages are often used as filler, handy for when a student finishes an assignment, or easy for a rainy day recess. And there's nothing wrong with this, as long as we recognize what it is: a relaxing activity that might help develop concentration, eye-hand coordination, and small motor skills.

But please, please, let's not call it art.

If teachers must use coloring pages in the classroom, I would at least like to see them add a bit of a challenging twist by giving students some parameters:
• use only analogous colors
• use only two contrasting colors, and do some shading
• use only one color, with different values
• draw and color a linear pattern in the background
• use only primary, secondary, or tertiary colors

Or better yet.... give kids some blank paper and a marker and let them create their own coloring pages! Or give them scissors, paper and glue and see what they come up with!

But most importantly, don't tell kids they get to do art and then hand out a coloring page.....

.... because coloring is not the same as making art.

Check out my TeachersPayTeachers store for teacher-friendly, authentic art lessons that rely on student creativity and which easily integrate across the curriculum. Enjoy!

Need some ideas? Start with this free resource: Making Time for Art.