I recently bought my husband a birthday card from Hallmark, and on the back of the paper bag was this wonderful quote from artist Barb Mizik*: “To me, making art is about being curious. I like to play with linework, texture and pattern, and see what happens when I combine different techniques. Sometimes the purest inspiration comes from looking at children’s artwork, because kids are the best at being curious.”
I totally agree. Kids are masters at curiosity. Pure curiosity, which isn’t steeped in judgment or self-doubt. Pure curiosity that’s packed with whys and hows and how comes? Relentless, fierce curiosity.
It doesn’t matter whether your tool of choice is a paintbrush, a pen, the piano or a camera. Looking at kids’ artwork can remind us of the vastness and richness of creativity. It can remind us to play and to shift our perspective. It can remind us that things don’t have to be as they seem. It can remind us that the world is filled with color.
It can even remind us that we don’t need to complicate creativity: We can simply start drawing what we see. We don’t have to get derailed by our own criticism and cruel words (which I know is sooo hard not to do).
We don’t have to focus on the technical aspects (at least not yet). And maybe we don’t really have to draw what’s there. (Because the possibilities of creativity are endless.)
Rather we can just create. We can let our imagination run wild and free—without insulting or censoring it. And this takes some practice.
Below are some ideas to help you use kids’ art to inspire you, whether it’s to spark your own artwork, your writing, your photography, or simply to remind you how to have fun.
- Google images of “kids artwork.”
- Watch a child draw or create anything. Focus on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Then try to mimic their movements and their approach. You’d be surprised what you can learn.
- Find a child’s drawing that really resonates with you, for whatever reason. Maybe it makes you smile. Maybe you like the colors. Maybe it reminds you of your own childhood. Then copy it—the scribbles, the lines, the colors—into your own notebook.
- Pick your favorite drawing from what you’ve seen so far, and use it to pen a poem that rhymes.
- Think of your favorite images from childhood, and try to recreate them. Maybe you even have one of your childhood drawings. Redraw it today. Try to step into your younger self’s shoes. How does your perspective change? What do you really see?
- Buy a coloring book at the Dollar Store. On every page, color outside the lines on purpose.
There’s a reason why Madeleine L’Engle said, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Because children have a keen understanding of art and life. They are perceptive. They use their senses fully. Their ability to see magic is especially sharp.
Children’s imaginations are lush. Their imaginations are limitless. Ours are, too. But we tend to forget. Which is why we need kids to remind us.
*Which is further evidence that inspiration really is anywhere and everywhere.