5 Ways to Celebrate Your Little Artists

kid art

In our crunched time of public spending and budget cuts, more often than not, the first thing to hit the trash pile in our schools are the programs surrounding arts. Art programs are responsible for half of the development of our children’s brains, but often get treated as a luxury and, therefore, often discarded with little more thought than their monetary value. We could very well wallow in the injustice of it all, but step back and realize that the sheer soul of art thrives in an oppressive environment. Some of the most meaningful and moving pieces have come from somebody saying, “you can’t do that”.

If your child’s school has suffered an arts cut back or simply wasn’t there to begin with, then the time has come to channel your inner Ginsberg and Howl! These are the times where as parents we should be finding ways to celebrate our little Mary Cassatt’s and Rembrandt’s.

Here are five ways to properly pay homage and inspire our little’s to create!

1. Rotating Frame

 The brainstorm that resulted in this very blog produced this idea. This is an idea that admittedly I have not incorporated in my own home yet, but one that I certainly plan to. If you have more than one tiny artist in the house or one that paints with the passion of Jackson Pollock, then fridge space is at a premium. Why not set aside a prominent spot on a wall in your home for a frame to rotate and showcase your pick-of-the-week/month (time frames open to suggestion). Make certain that the frame is large enough to hold (reasonable) variations in art sizes. The last thing we want to do is tell our children that their art needs to be 5×7 or it just won’t make the cut. Then pick a different piece of art produced by your child to display for the designated time for all to see. This will be a confidence builder and allow the child to be celebrated for creating, as well as allowing your fridge to look like a fridge rather than a huge decoupage project.

2. Personal Email Addresses

 This is an idea that my wife and I do utilize and have had a lot of fun with. Set up an email address for your kids. Don’t tell anybody but you and your partner and safely secure the password for later use. We use this email address to send our kids thoughts, pictures, words of wisdom, fresh memories, etc. from time-to-time. The idea is to give the kids their password when they become old enough to truly digest the contents and use it as inspiration for life (17-18 years old). Working in tandem with this topic, once your child’s art is removed from the marquis placement in the frame, take a picture of the piece and send it to their email address. Rest assured that when the picture is in the frame, they are admiring their work the whole time it’s up there, whether you notice it or not. Chances are when they get to see it again later in life, it will remind them of a simpler time.

3. Make Supplies Readily Available

 What good is the box of crayons up on the high shelf? Why would you want the only paper in the house to come from the office printer where they are not allowed to go? Put your children’s art supplies where they can grab them at a seconds notice. A true artist knows no schedule and inspiration can (and will) strike at odd times. This time should not be squandered looking for a pen and something to write on. NOTE: this does not apply to scissors. When you make scissors available to little fingers pets and siblings get haircuts. Keep those up high!

4. Art Classes

 If you witness your little people creating a lot of art, sticking to one singular medium when choices are available, or talking a lot about something artistic, find a way to enroll them in a class outside of school. Talk to the about the option to learn from a professional in a learning environment and let them see that you are in tuned with their inner voice. Most communities have learning annex’s or even private enterprise options offering everything from cartooning to beginning sculpture. Observe and listen to your artist and see if you can take their learning to another level.

5. Point Out “The Arts”

 One of my favorite movie quotes is from Joe Versus the Volcano. “My father says that nearly the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody your see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant total amazement”. BE AMAZED…BE AWAKE! There is art all around our daily lives. Art that we pass with little to no thought or even notice. This does not have to be paint on canvas or a 30-foot statue. Art can be a sunset or somebody playing piano in a mall. Our job is to stop and bring these crumbs of inspiration to the attention of our own little minds. Show them that art is constantly being created and presented to us everywhere we go and that whenever they feel ready, they too should feel like being a part of the movement. Whatever their medium is, there is no wrong way to do it and all art has an audience. This is a huge confidence builder.

There are many more ways to inspire, nurture and celebrate our tiny Picasso’s, and these are just a few. Let us know of ways that you inspire art, because after all, there is no right or wrong way!

The Color of Music (pt. 1) Flowers Are Red

 

music

The visceral feel and smell of a crayon can bring any adult back to an easier time. Too close ones eyes and know that a box of waxy colors and a blank piece paper was the only passport you needed to travel as far as the moon, face your fears or live every dream imaginable. Music really is no different.

In this series we will dissect songs that have affected each of us in different ways, and have that same visceral power to whisk us away to a different time and place with the strategic placement of our ear-buds.

 

Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin

 

If an organization was ever built around the meaning of one song, then this song is our unofficial anthem!

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and he started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

 A clear introduction to the power of crayons, paper and an endless imagination built on the infancy of worldly observations. Limitless in their possibilities.

 

And the teacher said, “What you doin’ young man?”
“I’m paintin’ flowers” he said
She said, “It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red”

 A simple comment from a jaded adult, delivered with little thought but with the effect of Thor’s Hammer.

 

“There’s a time for everything young saw
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one”

 “A way it should be done”. In this line we get our first real punch to the stomach. This is the oppression of an influential and stronger person instilling their will to mold another human beings whole future, and not for the better, as it should be done by an adult in power.

 

And she said, “Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

 At this point, we feel terrible for the child because we are behind soundproof glass and want to yell “THAT’S NOT ACCURATE”. We find solace in the fact that currently the world does reward those that color outside the lines, and think outside the box, but still, poor little guy. Just hold on a little while longer.

 

 But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

This is the child’s first attempt at standing up for himself against oppression, a glimpse that there is a free thinking fire naturally placed inside his soul that can manifest itself in spoken word.

 

Well the teacher said, “You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me”

And she said, “Flowers are red, young man
And green leaves are green

There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

 The refuge of an ignorant person has, and always will be, the reliance on brute strength to win an argument of the minds.

 

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

 He continues to fight for what he feels is right, even if he doesn’t know exactly why, or the importance of every step he is taking.

 

The teacher put him in a corner
She said, “It’s for your own good
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should”

Once again, our Goliath continues to pound with clenched fists, not really knowing how to digest all of the pushback she is getting on her own belief system form such an unassuming opponent.

 

Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said

 And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

 This is a sad point in our story. The boy has been physically beaten, but his message remains strong in it fortitude. He is simply unable to keep the fight alive physically, so he has succumbed.

 

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found

At this point, a sliver of sun begins to break the horizon of this boys life, and we assume that he is completely unaware of the possibilities that removing yourself from a negative environment can hold.

 

The teacher there was smilin’
She said, “Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one”

In the book/movie Matilda, there is the teacher Ms. Honey that sweeps in and shows her that life is beautiful and different for everybody. She shows that all interpretations of the world we live in are correct, because they are personal. This is our boy’s introduction to his own Ms. Honey.

 

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

 Our song ends on a cliffhanger. Clearly the boy has been so badly beaten that he is weak. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so badly beaten if he never fought back. However, every interaction that he has with “Ms. Honey”, with no further interactions with the evil Ms. Trunchbull, provide hope that this young moldable mind will find his way back to painting the world however he sees it!

 

 

 

The Environmental Impact of Our Friend the Crayon

 

Green Crayon

 

For most of us, the very first art gift that we were given was a crayon. As we begin to have little’s of our own, we celebrate the day that we get to present them with their own box of infinite possibilities and creation.

 

As time passes, and the children grow with every feverish picture, we become privy to the sad last little nub of the crayon that had an arguably illustrious career. Oh, the things that this tiny, non-useable nub, has created. Purple monsters, blue ducks, space adventures or sea voyages cut short by pirates flying the Jolly Roger. You have done well little nub, but your time is up and I must replace you. Or even sadder is the crayon just removed from the box that promptly breaks in that one mathematical junction that renders the two crayon halves cumbersome and challenging to use. This crayons life has ended before it has begun. Never will this crayon live up to the potential that it was intended for. Without much of a thought, we declare these crayons “unfit”, so into the bin with you both.

 

If the advances and progress that our environmentally aware public has made are to be true, we owe it to our planet as well as ourselves to stop and ask, “where do these used and broken creators of dreams go to?” Certainly we understand that the garbage bin is not a magical portal that will break down our crayons on a molecular level, thereby erasing their existence. As a matter of fact, their journey has just begun.

 

Traditional crayons are sticks of paraffin wax, which is a by-product of petroleum or crude oil. Paraffin wax, colored pigments, and often other byproducts, are combined to make crayons.

This wax is NOT biodegradable. It is true that in the right type of environmental factors, crayons can break down over time with the assistance of bacteria, but the number one factor necessary for this to happen over a double digit to multi-century process is exposure to air. Now, admittedly, I have never personally been buried in a landfill, but I am willing to bet that there is little to no air flow under the heaps of other garbage and earth. Therefore, the breakdown process for crayons can take 100’s of years. In addition, crayons mixed with by-products can cause low-carbon pollution.

More than 12 Million Crayons are made in the United States every day! Every 100 new crayons equal about 1 pound, which totals out to 120,000 pounds of being manufactured and distributed daily. Just for the record and to put more of a “WHAT” factor in place, that is 60 tons of petroleum-based paraffin wax that will eventually find their way to landfills. We estimate that roughly between 45,000 and 75,000 pounds of broken crayons are discarded in landfills throughout the country annually.

 

This is a travesty and should be taken into consideration, and most certainly one of the cornerstones that The Crayon Initiative was built on.

 

Let’s go back to our tiny little nub that has served us so well, but this time, let us realize that by throwing him or her into the bin for simple disposal is only the beginning of its life here on the planet. Wouldn’t that life be better served as a recycled form of their glory days and in the hands of a deserving child that can realize all the potential of sea and space voyages for a whole new block of time? Not only do we believe this, but also every child’s movie ever made about inanimate objects would agree.

 

After they are created, crayons sole purpose in life, is to bring imagination to life, and they are designed to do so for decades, certainly not live under a pile of other household trash for centuries.

 

So remember the next time it’s time to buy new crayons, we should take into consideration that we are merely renting them.

 

Three Reasons Why Crayons

 

child crayon

When we are young, we have two criteria when daydreaming about the future. What is going to make us happy and how am I going to change the world? As we get older, the lofty utopian visions get pushed aside for a more “practical” approach, and we get launched into our “how can we provide” or “how can we make ends meet” mode of survival. The world doesn’t seem to support professional cowboys and we can’t all be President of the United States, but the few people that realize those childhood dreams as reality certainly experience rewards deeper than those of the status quo.

 

This then makes finding crayons as our answer that much more interesting. Certainly we couldn’t teach a class on how to find wax sticks of color as the answer to both questions posed as an unassuming youth, but that is exactly what happened.

 

Here then are three reasons why crayons are the perfect vehicle to support happiness and world-changing philanthropy.

 

They Were the Exact Tools We Used to Realize Our Dreams

 

All of us have sat somewhere as a child and had the thought that “I want to fly to the moon” or “I am going to rope and ride broncos on the open plain”. When I was personally faced with those determined goals, I can tell you that smashing open my piggy bank was not going to finance a small plot of land that I could work in Montana, let alone a small down payment on a new pair of boots, and no amount of extra chores were going to get me closer to the assumed lofty price tag of rocket fuel, let alone a ship to put it in. So what then was I to do in order to feed my hunger for adventure? I grabbed my crayons of course. Within moments, I was the wild plains drifter fighting cattle rustlers in big black hats and fully equipped head-to-toe in NASA approved equipment on a solo mission around the moon, and I’ll tell you what you already know, these images appeased my hunger and allowed me to be the person I wanted to be, even if only for a moment.

I love the scene from Billy Madison when he has to go back to school as an adult and complete each grade starting with Kindergarten. The determining factor of his graduating to the first grade is when he explains “I drew a duck and colored him blue because I have never seen a blue duck and I wanted to”. A+ Billy!

 

The Emotional Appeal is Textile

 

Naturally things change as we hurl ourselves through time, space and childhood, and as we reach adulthood, things change at an even faster pace. Everything from the neighborhood I grew up in is now a strip mall to the pastry I loved from Starbucks has been discontinued. Everything on every level changes with or without our permission. Crayons have not changed!

The feeling of infinite possibilities, when you open a fresh box of new crayons, as the myriad of color triggers allow us to feel invincible. The feeling of the waxy paper between your fingers and the odd sense of accomplishment when you are forced to tear a little paper off to expose more crayon to work with. The smell of a collection of crayons be they in a box, cup or a Tupperware container, can hit you in your senses from 100 yards out. Any one of these factors will (not just can) trigger every dream you ever had as a child and the act of making them a reality on paper.

 

Our Earth Doesn’t Need Them Like We Do

 

Inspiring children to create and giving them the tools to do so could have been enough of a reason to move forward with our vision, but the responsible adult needed a say in the matter as well. On this platform, we realized that as wonderfully simple and unchanged as the crayon is, they really have no place in our landfills. This is exactly what a responsible adult should realize and want to do something about. Millions of crayons are manufactured every year and millions of crayons run out of paper to tear and are discarded into regular trash receptacles. Wax is not a substance that breaks down over time. We love crayons for the fact that they do not change, but the adverse effect is in the wrong place (our earth) they still don’t change, for centuries they just get pushed around and offer no valuable source back to the planet. The bottom line is they should just stay crayons in use, recycled again and again…This is what we do!

 

After taking into consideration all of the factors above, and crafting a viable plan to make a difference, we have launched The Crayon Initiative to keep these sticks of nostalgia and creativity out of our landfills and in the hands to the people that can do the most with them. The kids that take them and without a nickel invested make their dreams a reality! This is exactly how we stay happy and change the world.