Beyond cows, coloring books and Greenwood Park

An accomplished artist friend of mine painted a marvelous account of Texas Longhorn steers. They are not your everyday longhorns. They are blue and green and purple. Something between color-blocking and paint by number but totally original and really neither of those…and certainly not static.

Then I came across an NPR article by Steve Drummond. (The People Vs. Coloring Books: The Verdict Is In,July 2)

The illustration by LA Johnson is of four cows in various colors, only two of which resemble real cow coloring.


The childlike drawings reminded me of my friend’s painting (which I now own) so I read the article which made me want to read the referenced book, Creative and Mental Growth by Viktor Lowenfeld.

When I was very young coloring was okay because I could use whatever colors I wanted; the “paint-by-number” stuff I got for Christmas one year bored the heck out of me after I’d tried out a couple of the pages. When my kids were little I taped brown paper around the living room walls and let them color to their hearts content. Outside the lines never bothered me.

Evidently it doesn’t bother Mr. Lowenfeld, either. He sees art as a way of life for children and believes we need to understand their view of the world…which is creatively expressed through their artistic endeavors.

I’ve long been a proponent of art in schools. I have always believed art education is not only desirable, but crucial to the development of our human sensibilities.

Art, whether it be painting or performance, large or small, architectural or botanic, fosters our innate sense of harmony even in epic depictions of war and violence. It calls up the tragic, comedic or breathtaking beauty in our soul so we can translate it visibly or audibly. This applies to our creation of an art and to our response to various art forms. Art teaches perspective, proportion, sharing, discipline, tradition. It develops fine motor skills. It teaches practical skills.

The only reason i know how to use a jigsaw is because my 6th grade art teacher taught me. She also taught glass etching, mobile making and all the planning and critical thinking that goes with it. My first encounter with “real” art came when I discovered paintings by Piet Mondrian at The Des Moines Art Center tucked away in Greenwood Park not far from a public swimming pool. The building designed by Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei was architectural art in itself. It has since been added onto without losing its original integrity.

Saarinen1 preview

Saarinen DM Art Center

Pei Courtyard preview

I. M. Pei DM Art Center

Art teaches patience. Art allows imagination and communication to be explored and expressed. Artists good at their craft acknowledge they have learned from and built upon those before them. So we also have a legacy of cultural and historical understanding. Problem solving and thinking skills are developed and strengthened. Art sets a foundation for the technological literacy necessary today as never before. I could go on and on, but you get the idea…and probably have some of your own.

Perhaps the purveyors of the fadish adult coloring books are inadvertently on to something apart from stress relief. Perhaps, if they had been more expose to more art  and art forms earlier, adults wouldn’t feel so stressed in the first place.

Art joy


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: