As an art teacher, I am always delighted that simple art tools, with some encouragement, can have fingers and minds focused for hours at a time, for young and not so young.
Screens for working and playing in the cyber world are great. But we all need relief from the endless screens, alerts, and subliminal sense of being tethered to an appliance that is dictating who and what we should respond to.
There are countless advantages to encouraging art, and too many to quantify here. But a couple less well-known ones are:
1) Art has been eliminated in many schools, so children may have no opportunity to learn to interpret what they are seeing and represent in on another plane. Nor can they their minds roam at their own natural pace. It is not unusual for a 30-second commercial to have over 50-60 separate edits and separate images in it. That is not a pace established historically for the brain to interpret and respond to disparate images, day-in and day-out. Even doodling is discouraged. One time when I was helping as a Room-Mom in my son’s third-grade classroom, I was criticized for letting a child doodle during free time. I was told that there is no doodling after second grade. That made me sad. To doodle is to dream. It’s the dreamers who are the creators.
2) There is concern that fixing our eyes at the same viewing distance on screens for prolonged periods of time is negatively affecting the muscles in our eyes. When sketching, we find that we constantly need to move our eyes from the paper to the object we are sketching. These back and forth movements, adjusting focus from a short viewing distance to longer viewing distance, are more normal eye movements and helpful for the health of our eye muscles.
Back to the supply kits:
Give each traveler a small collection of pencils (with a few colored pencils), a good quality eraser, and pencil sharpener, in a zippered bag or fabric pencil case. Note: please use pencils, not markers. By sticking with pencils, you don’t have the issues with the missing caps, the random marks where you don’t want them, etc. that you get with markers. And, to me, there seems to be something that taps into our artistic side more naturally when we are given pencils—with a right-sized sharpener, as opposed to being handed a pen or marker.
Clip this pencil case to a standard clipboard. One for each traveler. I prefer the acrylic, colored clipboards. They are more colorful and help each traveler keep track of his or her own gear. Add a pad of medium-to-good quality drawing paper.
Don’t go for the cheapest materials here. Go to an art store, a craft store, or even a Target, and get the mid-to-high student grade materials. Or, if you order online, I frequently use Cheap Joes Art Stuff – really. cheapjoes.com/
Give them a call if you need help making decisions about supplies. The difference in cost is negligible in the big picture. And as an artist, I know it is painful to try to draw with pencils that are so hard you have to break the lead to get a strong color. And, it is frustrating to create something memorable on cheap paper. Spend a couple more bucks and it makes a huge difference.
Encourage everyone to:
- write some notes,
- practice cursive writing,
- invent one’s own hieroglyphics or symbols for a language,
- illustrate a poem or a song,
- create lyrics,
- trace leaves or found stuff, like a bolt or button, or
- play Tic-tac-toe or other paper and pencil games.
You can even provide some coloring books for the clipboards, too. Coloring books for children have always been popular. Coloring books for adults are the new rage. See the coloring book by my friend, Susan Schmitt, featuring her whimsical characters and lots of flowers through beautifully detailed illustrations.
Back to your supply kit:
Add tracing paper or other types of paper, origami sheets for example, to also inspire creative stimulation. Tape and scissors can go in, too. But are not necessary. I’d avoid the glue sticks, again, due to the missing caps and always dried out glue.
A large mailing envelope (even a used one) for each person can help collect completed sketches and other mementoes along the trip. Receipts, tickets from a movie or tourist event, a post card purchased along the way, etc., can all be popped in the envelope.
Alert: for many people these tools will seem primitive and unfamiliar. They will seem almost joke-like in their simplicity, longevity, and versatility. They are simply waiting to be picked up. There is no beeping. No alerts. No recharging. And they are fairly indestructible.
It may take encouragement –and modeling—to get your group involved.
Yes, you need to pick up the pencils, the paper, the clipboard and start doodling yourself to demonstrate how relaxing and contemplative it can be.
Pick up a pencil and a Pink Pearl. A relaxing afternoon awaits!
Jane M. Mason
watchingpaintdryllc on Facebook.