Five Star Coloring?

Posted: January 24, 2021 in Uncategorized

But wait, rats aren’t green!

One of the things I readily admit is that I am a work in progress and that sometimes I struggle between two points of view. This is where I find myself today. On one hand I have a loved on who works for a preschool. The chain of which this school is a part discourages coloring books and coloring sheets, asserting that coloring is not a creative activity. I definitely struggle with that. First of all, coloring is fun, plus it develops fine motor skills and in and of itself it is a basic skill that people need to advance in art. To me restricting kids from coloring is akin to wanting kids to make music without knowing how to play the notes, or learning to read and write without knowing the letters.

But the we get to the other side of my conundrum. My grandson is a kindergarten student. One day he started talking to me about something he is being taught in school—Five Star Coloring. There are three tenets of Five Star Coloring (shouldn’t it be called three star coloring? But I digress): Color in the lines, no white spaces and the right colors. To a point I get it and to another point I cringe. I get it, the kids need to develop those aforementioned skills, but it almost seems like they are squeezing the creativity and the fun out of it. Of particular concern to me is the “right colors.” From a purely educational perspective I get it. Leaves are green, the sky is blue… except when it isn’t. Look at a green tree and of course the leaves are green, but with the interplay of the light, you’ll likely see yellows and blues, white highlights and nearly black shadows. One of my favorite nature paintings is one a snow covered field at sunset. In this realist painting, the predominant color of the painting is a gorgeous shade of purple, the snow is nearly completely shades of purple. We all know snow is white, but if we are creating based on what we see, that is not always the case. In art, especially in realism one of the primary skills people need is to learn to draw what they see, rather than what they think should be.

Of course in my work, I am a big proponent of every crayon in the box and I make things whatever color I want. Art doesn’t have a lot of rules, and most of the artists we love the most feel free to break the ones that exist. So where do I go with this. I think we need to teach people the basic skills, and in that regard there is room for “five star coloring.” From that point there are other things that are valuable to know. Things such as color theory, composition, perspective and learning to draw what you see. But all the while, we need to encourage children to experiment and to break the rules. Above all, we need to remember that a small group of students will become professional artists, but all of them can benefit from creative expression, so let’s not choke all the creativity out of them. Coloring is an important skill. Five-star coloring has it’s place, but the happiest and often most successful arts are the ones who learn to color outside the lines and create their own path.

In the arts, rules are made to be broken.

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