Stressing out our kids

Art, not drugs, saved me from the horrible trauma of my childhood. So why do we think it’s optional for our kids?
This is my grandson Jake when he was a few months old. He starts kindergarten this year. I really hope he has time to paint and draw in school.
The overall death rate in Britain and America started dropping at the turn of the last century—except for childbirth deaths. They increased, even though women were healthier overall. At odds with every other health marker, rich women were more likely to die in childbirth than poor women. Why?
For most of history, midwives attended laboring women in their homes. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that women began to be attended by doctors and to deliver infants in hospitals or private nursing homes. Since the medical profession had no understanding of sanitation, doctors inadvertently spread puerperal fever from one patient to the next. That’s when they weren’t intervening with forceps, anesthesia, caesarians, and other frequently-fatal procedures. Rich women were more likely to be on the forefront of medical care, so they suffered disproportionately.
The New Puppy, by Carol L. Douglas. Available through Camden Falls Gallery.
I love math. I’m pretty good at it, and I see it as a description of the beautiful unity of the world’s design. I’m all for teaching math and science.
But to make room for math and science, we’ve cut back on art and music. And every time a public school needs to trim its sails, they start with the art department. That disregards the important role art has always played in liberal education, and all the science that tells us that art plays a critical role in developing intellect and character.
Miss Margaret, by Carol L. Douglas. She was a pretty good stress-reducer.
According to Athena Health, the percentage of pediatric patients with an anxiety diagnosis more than doubled from 2013 to this year. The percentage of patients prescribed anti-anxiety drugs over that time increased by a factor of six.
My sister and brother died when I was a child, in two separate, brutal accidents. There were no anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds back then. Luckily for me, I had art, so here I still am.
A recent study from Drexel University shows that creating art significantly lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Competence and the difficulty of the task had no significant effect on the results, but younger participants had a more consistent positive effect.
White Sands of Iona, by Carol L. Douglas, available.
I’ve written about brain growth in kids from doing art, doodling and executive function, neuroplasticity, and many other subjects. Training in drawing is associated with an increase in brain gray matter and changes in the prefrontal cortex. Making art improves the functional connectivity between cortices. Even passive engagement with art helps brain function.
Can anyone cite similar positive outcomes from their school’s football program?
Someday (I hope), we will classify the educational bureaucrats who dismiss art education with the well-meaning, misguided doctors who killed so many women in childbirth. But until then, we need to keep the pressure on to restore art to its proper place in western education. And parents, by all means, keep your kids drawing.

What happened to art school

For a long time, I regretted not getting an MFA. That might have been the best thing that ever happened to me.
Cape Elizabeth Cliffs, by Carol L. Douglas.

Over the last century, a profound revolution has taken place in art school. Art became more about making political and social statements and less about acquiring the skills to make a good picture.  “[A]nd so the study of art would change, because the taking of stands and the making of novel statements require less practice than painting well,” wroteartist Jacob Willer.

Willer was commenting on British art schools, but the same is true in America. In both countries, there are some notable exceptions. However, good private art schools are extremely expensive. Public universities, in general, teach art very badly. Their art departments enthusiastically embraced the interdisciplinary ideas of the 20th century. These held that art was important by nature of its intellectualism, not its craft.
Breaking storm, by Carol L. Douglas
As craft withered and died, a false distinction was drawn between thinking and making, with thinking being decidedly more important.
Matisse believed that the only way for a student to escape fashion was to become immersed in history, and to build his own tradition “by reconciling the different points of view expressed in the beautiful works by which he is affected.” Yet the arts educators of the 1960s thought their students were overburdened by fussy old masters. They had to “do some erasure.” Their tactic was to unpin art from history, a relationship that had endured for as long as we’ve made art.
Art from mid-century forward became an ever-more frenzied whirl of fashion and exploration, and much of this was good. Yet educators missed the obvious: the artists who were doing that work had been trained in the old regime. Beneath their ideas was a good working knowledge of painting, design, and draftsmanship.
Towpath on the Erie Canal, by Carol L. Douglas
“[I]f there is any creed that unites many young artists today it is the creed of anti; anti-intellectualism, anti-academicism, antiauthority,” wrote art historian Ernst Gombrich, who mercifully died before he could see his worst fears realized. “Art history is intellectual, it is academic, it is even authoritarian, for it teaches that Michelangelo was a great artist and you can like it or lump it.”
‘The attempt to turn artists into universal intellectuals left them embarrassing amateurs in everything,” wrote Willers. Craftsmanship has been replaced by “learned sociability and the comprehension of certain codes of behaviour.” If that doesn’t sound ultimately irrelevant, what does?
It was not until the 1980s that the purge of craft from the academy began to bear fruit. Those trained in the old ways retired or died, leaving no skills to teach. Since then, too many of our art graduates have been taught through theory alone, with craft and art history as optional add-ons.
Snow at higher elevations, by Carol L. Douglas
Today we’re beginning to see the wheel turn, but who is left to teach those traditional skills? Many of the current great masters of draftsmanship are working far away from academia.  “If you look at the best artists everyone has always looked at… eventually you’ll discover a standard for yourself. I think that’s the best we can do now,” write Willers.
Meanwhile, his essay has provoked the traditional defense of the indefensible. A return to traditional drawing and painting studies would be “completely misguided.” Some have even said it’s exclusionary, since the proper supplies are expensive.
Meanwhile, way out here in the hinterlands, there are traditional painters and draftsmen quietly honing their skills and passing them along to others. I rather like the idea of being a counter-revolutionary, myself. Don’t you?

Coming to terms

It’s the season when we’re trapped at parties by slightly squiffy people pontificating about art. Here’s a handy glossary of terms to help you hold your own.

The Waterseller of Seville, 1618, was Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece, meaning the painting that gave him the rights and privileges of a master under the guild system. It established him in the canon of western art. Courtesy the Uffizi Gallery.
Bravura means a spirited, florid passage of music requiring great skill from the performer. The word came to English in the eighteenth century from the spirited, florid Italians. There’s a sense of dash and brilliance in there, too. Today, we talk about the performer as much as the piece.
How to use this in a sentence: “After years of using a roller, I was inspired by his bravura brushwork.”
Canon originally meant a rule or decree of the Church, the books of the Bible that were accepted as legitimate, and the list of proven saints.
From this, canon came to mean the masters, masterworks, rules, and principles in any field of study, including art. Canonized artworks are the ones we venerate like saints, but canon also includes the people who made them and the theories that drove them.
How to use this in a sentence: “But of course, darling, the canon is absolutely dripping with Dead White Males.”
The Scream, 1893, Edvard Munch, courtesy of the National Gallery of Norway
Expressionism was all the rage in the first half of the twentieth century, when there really was something to scream about. It is subjective, distorting reality for emotional effect.
How to use this in a sentence: “Expressionism was a reaction to the bleak outlook of the time. For some reason I always think of it at these openings.”
Figurative doesn’t mean artwork with human figures in it. It just means the painting includes something you can actually recognize. This isn’t limited to realism, since there are plenty of people drawing recognizable things out of their own heads.
How to use this in a sentence: “My move to figurative painting was a purely mercenary decision.”
Untitled, c. 1943-44, screen print, Jackson Pollack. His work is all gesture. Courtesy MoMA
Gestural artwork includes dynamic, sweeping marks. It’s informal, spontaneous, and abandoned. In the twentieth century, it meant Action Painting. This was a branch of Abstract-Expressionism centered on the subconscious and the act of creation itself.
How to use this in a sentence: “I wish he’d kept his gestural work on the canvas. This stuff will never come out.”
Masterpiece originally meant the piece that a journeyman submitted to his guild to become a master of his craft. Today there’s no guild system, and the word is now invested with all kinds of fawning and awe. It really needs to be cut down to size.
How to use this in a sentence: Look suitably stunned and exclaim, “A masterpiece!” Repeat indefinitely.
Modeling is the rendering that defines the volume of the subject. Modeling takes a back seat to brushwork in much modern painting, but it was a prized skill before the Impressionists.
How to use this in a sentence: “The tender, delicate modeling focuses our attention on the truck bumper.”
A Motif is a theme or image in a painting or icon. It is often repeated, but may stand alone. It’s identifiable and has meaning within the piece. It comes from the Latin motivus, which means “moving, impelling.” That tells us a lot about the role of motifs in painting.
How to use this in a sentence: “That motif makes him look like a third-rate Chagall.”
The Red Vineyard, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh, epitomizes painterliness. Courtesy Pushkin Museum.
Painterly: This means a surface where the brushstrokes aren’t hidden and blended. It’s less-controlled, unpolished, and fiery. Since it’s all the rage in actual painting, surprise people and apply it to another medium.
How to use this in a sentence: “He’s the most painterly of bartenders, with his playful focus and texture.”
Participatory:That’s interactive art where you, the viewer, get suckered into playing. In the worst examples, the artist will expound on your sensory experiences and responses in a most embarrassing way.
How to use this in a sentence: “No way.”
Perspective: This is the drawing system where an artist tricks you, the viewer, into seeing a scene or object receding in space. It can take the form of graphical perspective, where things get smaller as they go back, or atmospheric perspective, where the light and clarity change over distance. It’s still in use today, at least by people who can draw.
How to use this in a sentence: “His experiments with perspective are always a bit wonky.”
Virtuoso: Since the eighteenth century, this has meant a person with great skill, a master of his art form. The real question is how virtuosityderived from the same root word as virtuousdid.
How to use this in a sentence: “She’s a virtuoso with her brush cleaner.”

Learning to see

Art class expands your capacity for creative thinking. No wonder we’ve cut it from school.
Sometimes it rains, by Carol L. Douglas. Available through Ocean Park Association.
“That’s not grey,” I inevitably find myself saying on the first overcast day of a new class. “It’s a dull, desaturated blue-grey.”
The new student will stare at the subject, shrug and say, “If you say so, but I don’t see it.” And then, somewhere along the way, he’ll suddenly ‘get’ it and begin to see all the colors there are in a leaden sky.
He didn’t suddenly grow different cone cells in his eyeballs. Neuroplasticity is wonderful, but it doesn’t go that far. Rather, by practicing seeing, he exercised and developed the neural network he already had.
Sea Fog, by Carol L. Douglas. Living in the northeast, you develop a fine sensitivity to grey.
The idea that doing art makes you more artistic is hardly revolutionary. In other fields, we call that ‘learning’. Art is encoded in the genes the same way math is. That means that some of us will have a tendency toward art or math, but all of us benefit from studying both disciplines.
A 2014 study monitored brain growth in art students. It observed changes in prefrontal white matter that corresponded to an increase in “their ability to think divergently, model systems and processes, and use imagery,” the researchers wrote. In a matter of a few months, “prefrontal white matter reorganizes as (art students) become more able to think creatively.”
“Maybe there are gene variants that give individuals a proclivity toward art (e.g. make them more open to new ideas or more prone to make connections or see patterns), but that is a long way from saying they were born an artist and that those without such gene variants are doomed to being uncreative,” the researchers concluded. “It also propagates the strange myth of the artist as a special class of human. I hope our study will help to debunk the notion that there are ‘artists’ and ‘the rest of us.’”
Inlet, by Carol L. Douglas. Seldom are grey skies actually devoid of color.
My mother began a slow descent into Parkinson’s Disease about a decade ago. She was deaf and suffered from tinnitus. Trying to find a solution, I stumbled across Norman Doidge’s The Brain that Changes Itself. It talks about redundancy in brain wiring. Our auditory processing runs on parallel channels to other mental processes. What happens in one circuit affects the others. Deafness might do more than just socially isolate us. It may contribute to the failure of our brains in extreme old age.
Inlet, (watercolor) by Carol L. Douglas. There are a million ways to depict the grey skies of late autumn.
Visual art and music are important for the young, in that they help develop creative, flexible brains. That’s why it’s so disturbing that both have been so significantly cut in schools.  You’d almost think society doesn’t want kids thinking independently.
But art is also important for older people, because it helps support those creative, flexible brains. I have a Facebook friend who regularly paints with her great-grandson, age five.  He’s developed into a fine young artist, and she’s working in her studio when he’s visiting. 
“He is learning to focus and think on his own more,” she told me. “He is now telling me specifically what he wants to paint. That’s a far cry from pushing colors around. And his Dad tells me he colors a lot at home. He is really developing—on his own—this interest in creating with colors.
“I think it’s helping him to slow down,” she added.
More of us should follow her lead.

Paint and sip

On the left is Chrissy Spoor Pahucki’s rogue painting from a paint-and-sip event. “Elena’s painting on the right looks like the demo and is what I was supposed to be doing,” she said.
About once a week, someone tells me that I should get a gig doing one of those ‘paint and sip’ party events, since it’s clear they rake in the dough like mad. I’m all for painting with wine at hand, but that’s as far as my interest goes.
Chrissy Spoor Pahucki teaches art at C. J. Hooker Middle School in Goshen, NY. She’s tremendously creative, one of those teachers you wish every kid could have. She’s also a talented plein air painter, and we run across each other at events in the summer.
On Friday, I caught her musing, “I’m anxious about what kind of paintbrushes they will have at this paint-and-sip event and I’m resisting the temptation to bring my own like a geek.” To me, being invited to one would be almost as difficult as having to teach one, so I was dying to see what she’d do with it.
“I’ve never forced myself to work with a limited palette before, but here are the colors I had to work with. Also, we were only given 2 paintbrushes, one #4 flat and one #8 flat.” 
Being a great sport, she let me share the results with you. “It was pretty fun. However, I only followed the directions for the first 10 minutes or so before I had to go rogue and started mixing my own browns and greens. I figured no one could really see what I was doing anyway, but I forgot these things end with a group picture for some reason,” she said. As she suspected, the hardest part was not having her own brushes.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click 
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American Exceptionalism

Young Girl Singing into a Mirror, Jean-Etienne Liotard, 18th century.
There’s a lot of conversation about American Exceptionalism in the media today. This is the theory that, because of its unique ideology of liberty, equality, and individualism, the United States is qualitatively different from other countries.
It’s true that our colonial forebears were uncommonly interested in the written word, and that literacy and numeracy were widespread among all classes, in marked contrast to the European nations from which we drew.
Tis to ye Press & Pen we Morals owe
All we believe & almost all we know.
(George Fisher, 1748)

Buffalo Newsboy, Thomas Le Clear, 1853. In America, education was never limited to the upper classes.
In New England, about 60 percent of the population was literate between 1650 and 1670, 85 percent between 1758 and 1762, and 90 percent between 1787 and 1795.
And what were these people reading? Well, not technical manuals. Overwhelmingly, education involved ancient languages, ancient history, theology, and mathematics, and most people could sketch and sing or play an instrument because these were fundamental skills in a world without photography or radios.
These New Englanders went on to lead the Second Industrial Revolution, which started with the rapid industrialization during the Civil War and culminated in 20th century American economic hegemony.
Réunion de dames, Abraham Bosse,17th century. The salon was a mechanism for continuing education from the 17th century on. 
In other words, it was quite possible to build a technological empire without STEM classes. But is it possible to build the 21stcentury equivalent without the humanities?
Researchers at Michigan State University recently identified a link between childhood participation in the arts and adult success in business. As they put it, “A young Picasso or Beethoven could be the next Edison.”
A Young Girl Reading, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1776.
People who own businesses or were granted patents were up to eight times more likely to participate in music and art as children than the general public. “The most interesting finding was the importance of sustained participation in those activities,” said Rex LaMore, director of MSU’s Center for Community and Economic Development. “If you started as a young child and continued in your adult years, you’re more likely to be an inventor as measured by the number of patents generated, businesses formed or articles published.”
“The ability to make art is really critical to the creative mind and getting into the sciences,” added James Lawton. 

 Message me if you want information about next year’s classes and workshops.

Smart kids

“The smartest kid in class, by contrast, is not an expensive problem. A boy or girl who finishes an assignment early can be handed a book and told to read quietly while the teacher works on getting other children caught up. What would clearly be neglect if it happened to a special-needs child tends to look different if the child is gifted: Being left alone might even feel like a reward, an acknowledgment of being a fast learner.”
When I came across that in a recent Boston Globe pieceon educating gifted kids, I had to laugh. Having once been the smartest kid in my public school class, I was anything but a cheap problem to fix; in fact, my parents ended up sending me to a private school to finish high school. I’m a great example of high intellect swamped by low expectations.
Fast-forward a generation to my own kids’ educations. You would think it would be better, but it’s not. Gifted and talented programs—all the rage before No Child Left Behind—have (if they still exist at all) become shock troops in the military boarding school approach to education we’ve adopted. More seat work, more homework, no time for things like art and music.
Busy work is the bane of the bright child’s existence. It teaches him to blow off his homework and rely on test-taking skills to get by. Moreover, it ignores developing the synthetic, intuitive parts of his brain, which are developedby studying art and music, and, yes, by daydreaming.
I have a friend who’s a classicist, living in penury as an adjunct professor. I’ve often thought that our school district should send three kids to her and pay her the roughly $65,000 it gets for educating them for a year. After four years, they would know history, music, the arts, Greek and Latin.
And before you tell me that’s not enough, America was built by people with exactly that education.

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Ruining our schools, failing our children

In the Studio, by Marie Bashkirtseff , 1881
Thomas Sudhof, who shares this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, told The Lancet in August 2010 that he owes his powers of analysis and concentration to studying a musical instrument.
“Who was your most influential teacher, and why?” he was asked.
“My bassoon teacher, Herbert Tauscher, who taught me that the only way to do something right is to practice and listen and practice and listen, hours, and hours, and hours,” he responded.
I mention this (which I read here) because I’ve been ruminating this week on a disturbing reportin the Wall Street Journal that, while U.S. baby boomers held their own against workers’ skills in other countries, younger people are lagging behind their foreign peers.
“The study, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, tested 166,000 people ages 16 to 65 and found that Americans ranked 16 out of 23 industrialized countries in literacy and 21 out of 23 in numeracy. Both those tests have been given periodically and while U.S. results have held steady for literacy, they have dropped for numeracy. In a new test of ‘problem solving in technology rich environments,’ the U.S. ranked 17 out of 19.”
That’s impressively bad, considering that we are the world’s biggest spenders on education.
Is it coincidence that our educational system has been deteriorating ever since we started centralizing it? The boomers who hold their own against their foreign peers, by and large, went to local schools. These answered to a local Board of Education who in turn answered to their local communities.
Now—as teachers, parents and students will tell you—there is no flexibility whatsoever in the system, because administrators answer to central planners. Success is defined as meeting bureaucratic expectations.
In such a worldview, the arts exist only for “enrichment.” They are always the first area trimmed when the pressure is on.
This happens even when all the evidence shows that the arts succeed. Consider the fate of Rochester’s School of the Arts (SOTA). By far the best school in a failing district, it had a graduation rate comparable to the best suburban districts. But when Rochester’s school budget was in trouble in 2009, the first response was to cut more than half of SOTA’s art teachers.
Intellectual gavage isn’t how the human brain functions best, and we clearly have lost something by teaching in this way. If there is such a thing as American exceptionalism, it derived from American creativity. Yes, we need scientists and engineers and Nobel prize-winners, but maybe we’d have more of them if we concentrated more on bassoon playing.

One more workshop left this year, and it starts next Sunday! Join me or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

A world without art is a world without common culture

Yesterday I railed about the educational establishment, which practices intellectual gavage on our children at the expense of creativity. Perhaps they should remember that all, or nearly all, of the unifying icons of the American experience were created by artists.

Daniel Chester French’s colossal Lincoln in Washington’s Lincoln Memorial

Daniel Chester French’s name is not widely known today, but a century ago he was one of America’s most prolific and popular sculptors. His most famous work is the colossal statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, completed in 1920.

The National Mall sees about 24 million visitors a year, and the Lincoln Memorial is the most-visited of its presidential monuments.

The strangest thing about it, though, is the quiet that descends over the tourists who climb the wide sweeping stairway and step into the cool of the marble chamber. Before long their attention is drawn to one or both of the two Lincoln speeches etched in the walls on either side of the famous statue. After all this time I am still astonished at the number of visitors who stand still to read, on one stone panel, the Gettysburg Address, and, on the other, Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

What they’re reading is a summary of the American experiment, expressed in the finest prose any American has been capable of writing. One speech reaffirms that the country was founded upon and dedicated to a proposition—a universal truth that applies to all men everywhere. The other declares that the survival of the country is somehow bound up with the survival of the proposition—that if the country hadn’t survived, the proposition itself might have been lost. Sometimes the tourists tear up as they read; they tear up often, actually. And watching them you understand: Loving Lincoln, for Americans, is a way of loving their country. –Andrew Ferguson, author of Land of Lincoln

There is a legend that Lincoln’s hands are positioned to form his initials in American Sign Language. (French’s son was deaf.) This may or may not be true, but the story points out that, even 150 years after his death, we each feel a special affinity to Lincoln.
Detail of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Boston, MA
 Augustus Saint-Gaudens worked on his Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, now in Boston Commons, for 14 years. Although it officially commemorates Col. Shaw, the monument is in fact a portrait of both him and the black soldiers who served under him in the 54thMassachusetts (Colored) Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

On July 18, 1863, almost half of the 54th Massachusetts were killed, wounded or captured in an assault on Ft. Wagner in South Carolina. Col. Shaw—a newlywed 25-year-old—was among the dead. The fort’s defenders said his body had been dumped in a mass grave “with his niggers.” It was meant to humiliate, but Shaw’s father publicly said that he considered it the highest honor that Shaw was buried with his men.

The frieze captures Shaw and his men marching out of Boston and into eternity. We are at street-side, watching a parade; we understand that this line of soldiers extends both in front and behind the narrow frame.

Joshua Benton Smith, a veteran of the 54th Massachusetts, conceived of the memorial to “commemorate the great event… by which the title of colored men as citizen-soldiers was fixed beyond recall.” Today hundreds of thousands of people walk Boston’s Black History Trail each year and see Saint-Gaudens’ memorial.
Maya Lin’s plan for the Vietnam Memorial. I am awed by the people who recognized the genius in it.

Maya Lin was a 21-year-old architecture student when her design was selected for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Her design submission was highly controversial, with great public outcry against its nihilism and austerity.

Photos don’t do the Memorial justice, since it is experienced spatially rather than viewed like sculpture. One descends into the earth to honor the dead, and one generally shares this experience with others who are experiencing real, not abstract, grief for the war’s dead.

The Vietnam Memorial has since become a much-loved public shrine. There have been at least six different portable copies and three fixed copies of the Vietnam memorial.
It’s important to remember that all three artists were trained artists. (Lin, the “greenest” of them, was halfway through her schooling and the daughter of the dean of Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts.) Do you think artists of their caliber could be made under an educational system that penalizes students for not meeting unreal standards by depriving them of art enrichment?

Society may have forgotten the importance of art education, but we haven’t! Join me in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manor—which is selling out fast—or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Teaching color theory to the wee tots

Corinne Kelly Avery will have her munchkins make smocks that coincidentally teach them color theory.
I tried teaching my own young kids art many years ago; I made them cry. So whenever a gifted art-teacher friend tells me about lesson plans for youngsters. I’m blown away. For example, Corinne Kelly Avery recently told me about her ideas for her Summer Art Camp for Munchkins (4 and 5 year olds) at Parkminster Presbyterian Churchlater this month.
Corinne has taught Sunday school at Parkminster all but one of the past 34 years. “I call myself the Oldest Living Sunday School Teacher,” she said. Corinne attended SUNY Potsdam for fine art, crossing over to St. Lawrence University for art education. She has her master’s in art education from Nazareth College and substitute teaches in Gates-Chili, Churchville-Chili and Spencerport schools.
Dip one palm in red, one in yellow, and then rub them together, and you have a kinesthetic understanding of orange. Dang that’s brilliant.
Corinne ties the story of creation to art in an arresting way. “Before God made light, there was no color. How did he create all things? He started with light. So the first thing we’re going to do is make sun-catchers. The next thing we’ll explore is color, because we wouldn’t be able to see color unless God created light.”
Corinne will have her munchkins make their own smocks. “I want them to feel they are covered and that they created that cover,” she said. At a local home center, she found a fiber paper dropcloth with a plastic lining, which she cut into 20X48” pieces with holes to go over the kids’ heads.  The kids will do an art project on the fabric side.
“I’m teaching that God is the creator of all things and he created each of them uniquely, as shown in their fingerprints. Why not take that forward and let them create?

Watercolor resist fish for Corinne’s munchkin camp.
“Their hands are a stamp of who they are and how God created them. I remembered a book called Mouse Paint I read to my own kids years ago. I thought, I can take that concept and do that with these kids. They can take red paint on one hand and make a print, and then take yellow on the other hand and make a print, and put their hands together and mix them to make orange. It’s a kinesthetic way to appreciate color; it’s almost magical. It’s basic, but it’s also satisfying.”
Being a good planner, Corinne made test smocks before she actually teaches her class, which is how she realized that not all blues and reds make purples. Sometimes they make mud. Back to the art store!
Corinne will take her kids through the Genesis account of creation, using, for example, Van Gogh’s Starry Night to talk about the heavens, and a watercolor resist mobile to talk about the birds and fishes.
I asked Corinne the question that is always on my mind when someone tells me about something so far out of my own area of expertise: why is it that she’s so smart about teaching little kids, and I’m not? “What if we were all autobots and had exactly the same thoughts?” she answered. “What a boring world this would be! God made this a world of infinite variety. Look at insects, snowflakes, flowers, plants. How would it be if we all thought and acted the same? We wouldn’t be attracted to anyone because they would all be just like us. There’d be no communication or community or life at all.”
And that sounds like a great answer to me.
If I had a munchkin, I’d definitely send him or her to this program. There are two sessions: July 15-19 and July 22-26. The first week is sold out; the second has four openings left. If you’re interested, the cost is $50 per kid, and you can call 585-247-2424 to register.

I really got to know Corinne on our drives back and forth to my workshop in Maine this June. There is only one slot open for my July workshop at Lakewatch Manor in Rockland, ME, and August and September are sold out.  Join us in July or October, but please hurry! Check here for more information.