by Nicole White
There is a difference between copying and being inspired by someone else’s work.
Copying is trying to take something word for word or in the matter of children and artwork, looking at another kids work and trying to mimic it.
There is a great artist who works with children, she told the story of ‘The Volcano.'
Children were gathered in Michele’s painting studio. This was a process painting class, where there are no limits or restrictions past treating the materials with respect.
A little girl saw that one boy was copying another boy’s painting and so the little girl went up to the teacher to tell her about it. She said, “I thought we were not supposed to copy each other?”
There had been an instance in a previous class where one child was literally trying to copy the painting of another child and the instructor stepped in to encourage the little boy to make his own painting.
The instructor went to investigate the “copying”. It seemed that the volcano on the first boy’s painting sparked something in the second boy who also painted a volcano. The two boy's paintings looked nothing alike. The colors and shapes were different, the only similarity was that they were both volcanoes.
In this instance, the second boy was INSPIRED by the volcano and wanted to explore it on his own.
The teacher assured the little girl this was different, that the first boy was inspired by what he saw. She let them know the difference between copying others work and being inspired by something.
Soon, there were kids painting volcanos throughout the room!
This idea of being able to paint something so explosive spread like wildfire in the studio. There was a great feeling to the studio and the kids were each focused on painting their own version of a volcano.
When the instructor went to look at the little girls painting, she too had a little volcano erupting on her painting.
It seems that this was a topic too big for the kids to ignore, and with permission to explore, they all created their own version of the volcano.
When copying is happening, it’s important to understand what the child is going through. Do they copy because they hesitate and doubt their own ideas? Children are naturally wildly creative, they just need encouragement to trust that in themselves.
If they are inspired by something, encourage them to make their own version.
You can say “I see you want to paint a volcano, what would the color of YOUR volcano be? And give them time to answer or choose the color.
Next ask, “What would the shape of your volcano look like”? Let them begin to paint or draw it with your encouragement and attention. Don’t correct them, just encourage them with questions.
Ask children questions to help them find confidence in their imagination. Children are told what to do so often, that it can sometimes take a little time for them to come alive in their own imagination, but it's there! Just ask!
We don’t want to use words like good, bad, pretty or ugly…we just want to encourage them to create. We want to show them how proud of them we are that they are creating.
My motto: It doesn’t matter what you paint, so much THAT you paint!
This week after teaching a multitude of painting classes, I’m reminded of Bob Ross! He had a kindness and passion for what he did and he loved to share it. If you have a chance, watch one of his episodes. You’ll see that he offers technique, but more he offers the permission to play and explore.
As adults we all need to play and explore more, this playfulness and exploration help encourage it in children.
Nicole White, CHHC, AADP, E-RYT, Author is a certified yoga, meditation, and qigong instructor, certified holistic health coach, art and life coach and facilitator. She has taught art classes since 1997, health and movement classes since 2005. Nicole loves to encourage people to express themselves.
Raven Art Center is located at
301 Washington St. SE, ABQ, NM 87108