by Nona Orbach
My grandchildren like to come to the studio and create. They choose what and where to work: sand tray, painting wall, large table. I am observing them or working in another corner of the studio. They are independent, and each one has personal handwriting and interests, and they respect and like each other’s work although they are different.
The eldest loves to mix and smear colors and is diligent and forceful in filling up pages of gouache paint.
He is a colorist child.
Coloristic children are interested in actions; They mix sensually, blend stuff, create mess and rhythms. Sometimes such processes develop into ornamentations, decorations, and patterning.
In every class, there are a few of them. Nevertheless, unlike most children, they are less concerned about creating images such as a house or a person.
This cognitive quality develops outside their paper!
These children sometimes find art time more difficult in kindergartens and schools – because they are not drawing images according to what society expects them to.
Kindergarten teachers and art teachers are often a bit bewildered in the face of this phenomenon.
Thus, the children who paint images will be granted compliments from the kindergarten teacher and grandparents [Look, he painted a man!], while the colorists will be treated as having drawn a silly scribble. Ironically, they might call him Piccaso. The child is compared to his friends and siblings. And they sadly feel and notice it.
One afternoon this coloristic boy said to me:
Yael said that my painting was ugly because I was painting over the lines.
He said they all were given printed pages to fill with crayons.
What did you say to her?
I didn’t say anything.
He was quiet and sad.
How old is Yael?
Four years old.
Is she a painting teacher like Grandma?
So in the meantime, she knows what she knows, and I will explain to you something that you can share with her and the children in kindergarten: every child is unique, and each one paints in their favorite way. And there are also all kinds of forms of painting. Otherwise, if we were all the same, there would be no museums and exhibitions.
For example, some paintings are called “abstract paintings.” They have shapes, colors, dots, and lines but no horse, flower, or house. These are mixtures like you like to do. Your grandmother paints like that, too, and her work was even in an exhibition in a museum.
Tell Yael that you don’t have to be inside the lines if you don’t want to. Every boy and girl is the queen or king of their paper, and they decide.
Like your cousin, Yael loves to paint inside the lines, and it is wonderful – but you can do what you choose to do on your paper. There is no one painting rule for everyone.
On my next visit, he said that Yael from kindergarten also started covering lines in colors even though she was usually inside the lines.
He is 12 years old these days. Since he was a toddler, he was very interested in cooking, and he is also playing the drums.
Collections of rhythms in paintings and music, cutting, chopping, stirring in the kitchen make a metaphorical sense that leads to his spiritual blueprint traits.
For coloristic children, the material, the sensual experiences are the heart of the process. If you know such a child, they need that reinforcement in the school system that does not respect this way of expression.
This post is part of the project Grammar of Drawing by Suzanne Axelsson, Nona Orbach and Roberta Pucci.
It has been translated in four languages: