I hope the title of my blog can catch your attention. I do not believe in sending kids to formal art classes to learn how to create art. What I mean by formal art classes are classes that teach drawing techniques, painting techniques, color theory, etc. Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”. He also said that it took him a lifetime to paint like a child. It is for our kids’ benefit to explore how they want to paint and draw. They should not be told by art teachers how they should paint or draw, and what colors look well together. Why would we want to hinder our kids’ own interpretation and execution of art? Why would we want our kids to draw or paint like everyone else?
Besides making various art supplies easily accessible to our kids at home, there are many things that we as parents can do to help nurture our kids’ artistic talent and creativity. The first important thing we can do is to keep a positive attitude towards our kids’ artistic talent. We need to believe that our kids do posses artistic talent and they are creative. This is not far fetch at all. All little kids possess the traits of highly creative people. Little kids like to explore. They are captivated by ordinary things around them and they can turn ordinary things into the most entertaining toys for themselves. They continuously invent new usages of mundane things. They are curious and they like to ask questions. They are not afraid to be laughed at when they do silly things that make themselves happy. I call these traits “little kids’ traits”. These “little kids’ traits” can easily disappear from our kids as they grow older due to worries about what other people think about them and their desire to fit in. To prevent these “little kids’ traits” from fading away from our kids, we need to:
1) encourage them to explore,
2) encourage them to ask questions,
3) make them understand that fitting in is not necessarily a good thing. Instead, they should strive to stand out (in a good way) among their peers.
A second important thing to build our kids’ foundation to be a creative and artistic talented person is to help them develop self-confidence and be happy with who they are. Art can be a very subjective thing. There is no right or wrong in art but everybody has his/her own opinions. One can easily get discouraged from creating art if negative feedbacks are received. So it is important to have self-confidence and be proud of your own creation no matter what other people think. How to help kids build self-confidence and self-acceptance is another big topic that many people write books about. So I am not going to talk about it in this post.
Helping our kids’ to keep their “little kids’ traits” alive as they grow older and helping our kids build self-confidence might not necessarily involve any art making or art-related activities, however, they are key to nurture our kids’ creativity and artistic talent. Isn’t that interesting? In my future blog posts, I will talk about more specific activities (art-related or not) that we can do to help nurture our kids’ creativity and artistic talent.
Posted by admin on September 9, 2012
Last month, I conducted a children workshop at the Castro Valley Library on the topic of finding one’s mission in life. As to guide the participants (between the age of 9 and 13) to find their true passions, I asked them what changes they would like to see most in the society and the world. I also asked them to present their answers in drawing. 7 out of the 11 participants wanted to see a “greener” world. They wanted to see people recycle more, produce less waste, consume less energy etc. Here are the drawings of some of the kids who care about the environment.
drawing from a 10-year-old
drawing from a 12-year-old
drawing from a 10-year-old
Although it was great to see so many kids were environmentally conscious, I wonder if they couldn’t think of something that they truly cared about. Of course, I don’t expect children their age know what really matters to them. That’s why I have my workshop to get them thinking about what truly matters to them and to provide them the tools to search for the answer.
Then there was a 13-year-old girl with very ambitious wishes. She wished there was no racism and no crime in the world. She wanted equal rights for everyone, eco-friendly cities, better economy, and world peace. She also wanted people to be more friendly. See her drawing below.
drawing from a 13-year-old
I was very pleasantly surprised by the wish of an 11-year-old girl. She wished everyone to have more self-confidence and wished everyone to have a nice day. Can you imagine the positive impact that can bring to each person’s life and to the society as a whole if everyone simply has more self-confidence?
The rest of the kids wanted more people to be educated, fewer homeless people, and every animal to be treated nicely.
drawing from a 10-year-old
drawing from an 11-year-old
Posted by admin on August 14, 2012
I was surprised by the wish of an 11-year-old girl at my recent workshop at the Castro Valley Library. When asked what changes they would like to see in the society/world, an 11-year-old workshop participant said she would like to see more people have confidence in themselves. She also wanted everyone to have a nice day.
Imagine what impact it will bring to the society and to the world if everyone simply has more self-confidence. The impact is limitless. People might set higher career and life goals for themselves because they have the self-confidence to achieve whatever they set forth to do. This enables more people to reach their full potential. As a result, we might see more breakthroughs in science, technology, medicine, art, and a slew of other fields. On a more individual level, people will no longer settle for uninspiring jobs. They have the self-confidence to find other jobs or even new careers that they truly love. People will no longer settle for mediocre relationships with their spouses. They have the self-confidence to find perfect matches to walk through life with them.
If you have the confidence to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself, what will be the ultimate goal in your life?
Posted by admin on July 26, 2012
There has been quite a few recent researches showing the benefits of training in visual arts to children. Those researches find that training in visual arts helps students do well academically. It helps students develop attention and intelligence. Students who receive regular visual arts instruction report stronger academic skills. They retain the knowledge they acquired longer (increased retention). They have higher level of student confidence and more highly developed independent thinking skills. These are all good but I think there are more important and unique benefits that doing visual arts can bring to children. Doing visual arts challenges children to really see things. It helps them improve their observation and as a result it also improves their understanding of the world. In fact, doing visual arts can change the way children (as well as adults) see the world. I am speaking from my personal experience. Ever since I started painting and drawing in my mid-twenties, I started to see beauty in everybody and everything. Whether it is a junk yard, a subway station, a homeless man, or a random person walking down the street, I see things in them that can make interesting paintings. When we see beauty in everybody and everything, we become less judgmental and we have more compassion. What if everybody on Earth enjoys doing visual arts and can see beauty in everybody and everything? Will that be enough to bring peace to the world?
Posted by admin on July 18, 2012
Are you a fan of Project Runway (a reality show where fashion designers compete in various design challenges to get the chance to showcase their collections at Fashion Week)? If you are, you know that before designing their collections for Fashion Week, the final four contestants will start the design process by collecting little things that they think will give them inspiration for designing the new collections. These little things can include a picture of a building, a landmark, a place etc. They can also include a piece of jewelery, a swatch, a flower, etc. You get the idea. Then they put all these little things together such as pinning them on a board. I call it the “collage of inspiration.” From their collage of inspiration, they might get inspiration for the color scheme of their collections. They might get inspiration for the silhouettes of their collections. They might get inspiration for the story that they want to tell with their collections.
Creating a collage of inspiration is an effective and proactive first step towards a creative process. Introducing the conception of “collage of inspiration” to your kids will give them the tool they may need to start any creative process.
I recently introduced the concept of collage of inspiration to my two-year-old. The first collage we made used various department stores’ colorful fliers that we received in the mail. The holiday season is approaching, most department stores’ fliers are filled with beautiful pictures that are Christmas related. One day, I took out a stack of department store fliers and asked my two-year-old to pick out the pictures that she liked in these fliers. She pointed at a Santa Clause figure, a ginger bread house, a ginger bread cookie, a snowman, and a few other things. Then I cut them out for her (I don’t feel safe to let a two-year-old use scissors) and asked her to glue them on a piece of paper in whatever arrangement that she liked. She even made some scribbles on the paper. Here is her finished work:
This collage is the beginning of a creative process. It can inspire the storyline of a book. It can inspire the design of a holiday cake. It can inspire the subjects of a painting……..
Do you make a collage of inspiration before you start a design or art challenge?
(For those of you who don’t know about the Project Runway show but are curious about it, you can go to its website: http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway )
Posted by admin on December 16, 2011
I happened to watch Charlie Rose’s interview of Jim Collins on PBS recently. (Jim Collins is a business consultant, author, and lecturer on the subject of company sustainability and growth. His books include best sellers such as Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, and Good to Great). I was intrigued by some of the things that they talked about.
When Jim Collins was a lecturer at Stanford business school in the late 80′s, he invited Steve jobs to give a talk to his students. He was extremely impressed by Steve Jobs even though Steve Jobs was fired by Apple at the time. In Jim Collins’ opinion, the reason why Steve Job was so successful after returning to Apple was because Steve Jobs was able to marry discipline to his creativity. That’s right, marrying discipline to creativity. According to Jim Collins’ research, creativity is natural and abundant to human. However, it is rare for people to have the ability to marry discipline to creativity in a way that discipline amplifiers creativity instead of destroying it. Steve Jobs had that rare ability. Steve Jobs had the discipline to redirect Apple’s focus when he returned to Apple. Instead of working on dozens of products, he slashed all but four products when he first returned to Apple. He also had the discipline to enforce practices that perfect the designs and production of Apple’s products.
From the surface, creativity and discipline seem like oxymoron. However, when you think deeper about it, creativity needs the help of discipline to blossom. For example, if I only wait for great ideas to hit me like a lightning blot instead of having the discipline to carve out time regularly for idea generation or the pursue of creativity, then I am giving up my control to increase the capacity of my creativity. Another example, if I have dozens of new painting ideas, but I don’t have the discipline to paint regularly, then my ideas remain ideas and they will not be turned into reality. So adding some discipline to your hectic life may bring unexpected reward.
(If you are interested in watching Jim Collins’ interview, you can go to http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11983 .)
Posted by admin on November 20, 2011
Thank you for your support for my blog. I have been blogging for only about one month and I haven’t done anything to market my blog, but I already received quite a few nice comments from some of the readers. It is very encouraging. So I want to use this opportunity to thank all my readers, especially the ones who took the time to write comments. It is nice to know that some people out there find my blog content useful.
If you want to be informed when a new post is up, you can join my FaceBook page at
Posted by admin on November 18, 2011
Do you think artistic talent is innate or do you think artistic talent can be nourished?
I believe that all of us possess artistic talent but it is stored in us in different ways. A small number of people are able to reveal their artistic talent at a young age but most of us need more time, effort, and passion to unleash our hidden artistic talent. A study carried out by economist, David Galenson, seems to support my belief.
David Galenson researched the life of 42 contemporary American artists in the hope of unlocking the secret of innovation, which in turn may yield clues about how to foster fresh thinking in people and organizations. He discovered that genius in art comes in two different forms, embodied by two different types of people. He calls the first type of artists “conceptual innovators”. Conceptualists know what they want and they know when they have created it. They make bold and dramatic leaps in their disciplines and they do their breakthrough work when they are young. David Galenson calls the second type of artists “experimental innovators”. This type of artist proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and do their important work much later in their life. Experimentalists rarely preconceived a work, they figure out what they are painting by acutally painting it.
Isn’t it assuring to know that you may be an experimental innovators in David Galenson’s study and thus you haven’t made it big in the art world early in your career? As long as you have the passion for creating art, who is to say that you won’t be successful in the future.
If you are interested in reading the article about David Galenson’s research, you can go to http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.07/genius.html?pg=1&topic=genius&topic_set=
Posted by admin on November 8, 2011
I am a late bloomer when it comes to art. I didn’t show any artistic promise when I was a child. I didn’t even show much interest in art when I was a child. However, deep inside, I knew I would love to be a portrait artist when I was about 8 or 9-years-old. That might sound strange to many people. However, when I look back now, I can understand why that’s the case. First and for most, I was intimated by art. I had the misconception that people were born with artistic talent and it was hopeless for people to pursue an art career if they didn’t have the talent. At the time, many people had that misconception. Even now, we are still surrounded by people who have the same misconception. When I was a child, I didn’t think I had any artistic talent, so I gave up my dream even before trying. I also grew up in an environment that didn’t give much attention to artistic expression.
Later in life, when I was at a cross road and needed to do some soul searching, I took an oil painting class. It had a profound effect on me. It made me realize how much I love to paint. Suddenly, it didn’t matter to me whether I had any artistic talent or not. I simply enjoy the painting process. From that point on, I have been able to nurture my artistic expression and make noticeable progress along the way. Sometimes I wonder if I could be a famous artist by now if I had started painting much sooner. I surely could have enjoyed a more fulfilling life much sooner if I had started painting sooner.
Now as the mother of a toddler, I want to make sure that my child has all the positive reinforcement needed to explore her interest and talent in art. If she is passionate about art, I want her to discover and pursue that passion as early as possible. I also hope other parents will provide an encouraging environment for their children’s artistic exploration. Therefore, I set up this blog mainly to discuss what we can do as parents to nurture our children’s artistic talent and creativity. Let’s get started in my next blog entry!!
Posted by admin on October 17, 2011
Since this is my first post, I think it is best to talk about how I started my art journey. I hardly ever drew or painted before I took my first oil painting class when I was in my mid-twenties. However, I knew I wanted to be a portrait artist after I watched my mom’ s uncle paint an oil portrait of my mom when I was about 8- or 9-years-old. (The image below is the oil portrait of my mother.)
You would think that I would show an interest in art by drawing or scribbling a lot when I was little. That did not happen. At that time, I actually found drawing with pencil or charcoal boring. I wanted to dive into oil painting right away. I had the misconception that one had to learn charcoal drawing before moving on to oil painting. It was that misconception and my reluctance to learn from the basic kept me from taking art classes.
I finally took my first art class, an oil painting class, at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston when I was in my mid-twenties. I thought I was just taking it for fun but I ended up finding my real passion, painting portraits. To me, an artist is creating a legacy for himself as well as the subject every time he paints a portrait.
As a portrait artist, I see beauty in all people. Any person can be an intriguing subject for my paintings. Although I enjoy painting people from all walks of life, I am more found of painting children and am focusing on doing commissioned portraits of children. I am captivated by their unpretentious nature and their curiosity about the world.
As a child portrait artist and the mother of a toddler, I am also passionate about nurturing children’s creativity and artistic talent. I am using my blog not only to share with other my journey in art, but also to provide resources and open dialogs on the topic of nurturing children’s creativity and artistic talent.
Posted by admin on October 9, 2011