Inspiring Creative: Marissa Moss

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Nurturing creativity in our children is one of the most important things we can do for them. Last week, Lindy-Ann shared an inspiring TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson. He eloquently and wittily shared that our public education system, around the world, is broken when it comes to this crucial skill set. For this reason, I am so overwhelmingly thankful that we are able to send our son to the American International School here in Israel, where he is given opportunities to flourish creatively and encouraged to embrace how his brain thinks. The most recent celebration of creativity was a week of workshops hosted by children’s author and illustrator Marissa Moss.

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Marissa spent the week holding writing and illustration workshops for each grade. Through her stories and her own personal experiences she encouraged each child to embrace their unique story because, as she puts it, “everyone’s life is interesting.” Marissa also taught them the importance of making mistakes.

On Friday, at our monthly Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting, she spoke with us parents about some of the activities they did and how important it is to help our kids hone their visual storytelling skills. She even answered questions on how to encourage our budding creatives in ways that would challenge them lovingly and encourage with sincerity, not false praise. She also encouraged us, as parents and teachers, to help the children harness their innate critical reading and thinking skills, because “kids won’t read bad books; if it’s not good, they’ll tell you.” This critical reading by her own sons is how Marissa knew that children would enjoy her books. She even told us that her sons are her best and most brutal editors.

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There are two truths that Marissa hoped to leave with our kids that I think hold true for everyone, no matter what age you are.

Truth #1 Revision is your friend

In working with the second grade classes, Marissa had them work on crafting and revising a great opening sentence. As you can imagine most kids struggled with the fact that their sentence was not perfect the first time and did not want to revise it. In order to help them understand that revision is a good thing she showed them one of her sketches of a first draft – all lines and scribbles, and then the final published revision. Reworking and revising can actually be fun and exciting as you get closer and closer to that “A-Ha!” moment and the children were able to learn and experience that.

I asked my second grader about his sentence, and he exasperatedly told me he had to do it twice, but in the end it was a great hook: Peter has a big secret.  Did I mention Peter is a piece of toast. I’m intrigued, aren’t you?

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Truth #2 Mistakes are opportunities

I first heard this exact truth from my incredibly talented artist friend Joy, as I struggled to perfect a craft we were doing for fun at a girls’ night. Silly Katie.

Back when Marissa was an art teacher she saw this struggle in her own students and she was inspired to use one of their true stories to help other children see the beauty of making mistakes. She wrote and illustrated Regina’s Big Mistake and has helped other children be bold and just get something down on paper. It is the ideal book for the little perfectionist in your life.

Funnily enough, even when signing the books I purchased, she misspelled my son’s name and beside it she wrote “sorry, I make mistakes all the time.” It’s truly a great life lesson for everyone, not just creatives.

“Let yourself explore, take risks, and make mistakes. You never know where a mistake will lead you.” -Marissa Moss

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After hearing Marissa Moss and Sir Ken Robinson words I’m impassioned to encourage my boys and the other children in my sphere of influence to take those risks and be creative. I want them to be a part of this creative revolution we are experiencing and help shift the tide.

Learn more about Marissa and her books here. I also recommend the After School Monster, which I bought for my 4 year old. It’s a great story of being brave and conquering your own monsters.

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A NOTE OF THANKS

Marissa, thank you for your time and your heart for our children. I know all you taught them will impact how they see their {art}work going forward. Hoping the all best for you and your new authors!

Cheers,

kdg

Do schools kill creativity?

When I was in high school, I was being lovingly guided by two parents who both wanted what was best for me. My dad decided that computers were the future and that I needed to learn computer programming, become some IT guru and end up with heaps of money and a thriving career. My mom saw that my interests and strengths lay in the arts so in support of me pursuing my dream, my dad had me take computers in my final year as a backup.

Art won.

The art school I attended after grade 12 brought me to a great career that I loved and enabled me to earn a good living. Luckily for me it worked out. With my own children entering school I keep a close eye on their own developing interests and strengths and do my best to let them grow into the wonderful humans that they have been designed to be, and not put them in a bubble that I have crafted for them from my imagination. When a dear friend sent me this video, I gave it a standing ovation. There’s a reason this is the most viewed TED talk to date.

Cheers to the creatives getting the same respect as scientists.

la

The Crayon Books

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Ever since I was a little a girl, a fresh box of Crayola Crayons has made my heart so happy. That yellow and green branded box held so much possibility and potential creative outlets. My ‘artbrain’ liked to imagine that each color had a it’s own personality, opinions, and origin stories. Like Jungle Green was a really laid back fellow from Costa Rica and Burnt Sienna was from a cattle ranch out West. We had some really good times, my crayon friends and I, as I learned to color in{and OUT}side the lines. I even remember the first time I bought a box of crayons for my son, imagining we would be spending time coloring side by side, that vision wasn’t very realistic when he was only 18 months old, ha!

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Then one day my childhood fantasies of a crayon world became a “reality” in the pages of a Christmas gift from Tio Russ. Our beloved Tio, had bought the boys two fantastic books about a set of crayons who wrote letters to their owner. The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, are now staple readings and gifts in the DG house.

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The Day the Crayons Quit is a series of letters to a poor little boy, Duncan, from his unhappy crayons. Each color has it’s own grievance from being overly used to being naked! Duncan just wants his crayons to be happy, so in the end he comes up with a creative solution to take care of his “friends.”

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The Day the Crayons Came Home is equally as witty and cheeky and introduces us to some other colors including the geographically challenged Neon Red Crayon and the egocentric Pea Green aka Esteban the Magnificent. Let me tell you the giggles that I hear when my oldest reads these letters to himself make my heart sing!

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These books are perfect for elementary age children and parents –  I promise you will laugh out loud too. The fantastic child-like handwritings and illustrations by Oliver Jeffers brings each crayon to life. New readers will enjoy conquering each letter and older readers, for example, can use the series to learn about the use of perspective in literature. In addition, the The Crayon Books website has educational materials for teachers and parents. Full disclosure, I just found about about the two new additions to the crayon book universe, The Crayons’ Book of Numbers and The Crayons’ Book of Colors while researching for this post and have since order them for my 3 year old.  

My family highly recommends these fun and creative crayon books it.  They combine our love for reading, color, and laughter perfectly. I am genuinely inspired by Drew and Oliver’s collaboration as well.

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If you are a fan like us, go check out the Every Crayon Counts site and share your thoughts…um, I mean, support for the Crayons Union! #supportthecrayons #thedaythecrayonsquit #everycrayoncounts

Color on!

kdg

Right Brain, Right Brain.

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One day when my eldest daughter was 4 years old she came to me and said, quite frankly, “Mummy, I have an art brain, there’s just no room in my brain for anything else except art.”

Being an art brain myself I was naturally thrilled with this idea. When you have an art brain you not only see the world in visuals, you hear it, smell it, taste it and feel it in visuals too. We picture EVERYTHING. As delightful as this is, it can also be a little challenging. When my daughter started to learn to read and write she would literally copy the font script that her words on the paper were printed in, be it arial, helvetica, futura, you name it. It was a struggle to try explain to my little person the differences between fonts and why they were all right but essentially all look different. It was very confusing to her.

At such a young age she knows exactly who she is and where her strengths lie – from dress design to painting, from building 3D models to writing songs. As an adult, I’m still figuring this out. I find myself now trying to keep her out of the boxes that life and society wants to put her in. In school, art becomes a subject along with science, maths, english etc, but for her art is her entire way of thinking. It’s how she sees everything. I find myself using art to teach her maths, I use art to explain science, I use art to help her remember those tricky english words with funny illogical spellings.

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Pablo Picasso put it perfectly. “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up.”

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Using the example of the Mercedes ad by Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Y&R Interactive Tel Aviv, Israel, the text for the right brain reads: “I am the right brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feet. I am movement. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel. I am everything I wanted to be.”

I remember when I was younger, I would paint everything, the taps outside, the birdbath, my big white cupboard doors did not stay white for very long. I’m thankful for understanding parents who gave me the space I needed to be colourful and free. I hung coloured bottles from my trees in my garden, yes my parents had one of ‘those’ hippie houses at the hands of their daughter. I can only chuckle when I see the same characteristics reflected in my child. And I look up at my grandmother who was and still is a painter. She has painted all her life and still has her easel next to her bed in her room as she chases 90.

I am very proud of my art brain kid, she has already taught me so much more about parenting than any best selling book or Google could ever do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-left brain at all, after all I married one, I am just so deeply in love with my right brain, it’s everything I ever wanted to be.

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If you have an art brain child we’d love to hear from you. Please share your child’s most recent creation in the comments below so we can celebrate them with you!

Cheers,

la