The "Good Colouring" Chart...

The “Good Colouring” Chart…


As a reasonable person… (who tries to see differing perspectives)… I’m going to approach this little colouring chart from two directions.

To be honest, my first response was one of instant, irritated frustration.  But now that I’ve given it some thought and calmed down somewhat…  I’ll offer this perspective instead:

Option One:  This Chart Was Designed to Teach Children how to Follow-The-Rules

If the purpose of the chart was to help children understand The Rules (of life, school and perhaps, even…art), then the chart does it’s job.   Most schools teach kids – from an early age – to follow-the-rules and colour-in-the-lines… and to be compliant and obedient little worker bees.   If that’s the purpose of this chart, then it succeeds.

If the idea of the exercise is NOT to encourage children to be creative thinkers and initiators… then full-marks, ten out of ten goes to the teacher who created this chart.  If the idea is to demonstrate to children that art… (as in life)… has a “right way” and a “wrong way” – and that colouring in the lines is the Right Way (just like fitting-in and living within the constraints of the Status Quo is also the right way)… then, well, the chart isn’t so bad after all.  It does what it was always meant to do (kinda like schools).

Option Two:  This Chart Was Designed to Teach Children the *Right* Way to Create Art

To be honest, I’m leaning towards option 1.  Because “colouring in books” and “colouring in sheets” have nothing to do with “Art” in the first place.  Art is about creative expression.  What – pray tell – is creative (even slightly creative) about colouring in a picture that somebody else has drawn?  And… jeez… if you can’t even add your own creative expression whilst colouring… and choose your own colour palette… or draw outside of the lines… what’s the point?  It’s definitely not art.

One of my pet personal hates is colouring-in-books for children…  or colouring-in-sheets.  I think kids should be allowed (and encouraged) to create… and express themselves… in whichever way they choose.  There is no right way to draw a cat… or a flower… or a sun.  Walt Disney was scolded by his teachers at school for drawing faces on flowers… and it seems like Society is still hell-bent on imposing similar stupid rules on our kids today.

My mother (bless her) banned colouring-in-books from our home.  We drew – on paper – what was inside our head.  We didn’t colour in neat little cartoons that adults had drawn.  To this day – all of my artwork comes straight out my head.  I don’t copy from other people’s illustrations, photos or references.  Mom did me a huge favour… encouraging me (in a multitude of ways) to express myself fully and authentically.

This came out of my head yesterday morning… while waiting for a coffee to arrive.

This came out of my head yesterday morning… while waiting for a coffee to arrive.

A couple of years ago… when life was very different… my daughter spent her days at pre-school.  And the pre-school teachers seemed to love colouring-in books and colouring-in sheets.  “Art” lessons simply required handing out some photocopied sheets of a cat or a dog… and instructing the children to “colour in neatly”.

It was only 3 years later, when I took my daughter out of pre-school, that I realised how something so seemingly insignificant as colouring-in-books (and the accompanying rules) had really taken it’s toll on my little girl.

We were doing art at home… and I had supplied her with a colourful range of paper, pencils, paint – and encouraged her to draw.

“What must I draw?”  she asked me.

“Anything you want!”  I said.

“But I don’t know how to draw” she said.

“Of course you do!” I encouraged her, “Draw what’s in your head!”.

She agreed to attempt to draw a mouse.  But… no sooner had she made the first marks on paper, she began getting very upset.

“It’s all wrong!” she cried

“It’s not wrong!” I said, “I really like your mouse”

“But it doesn’t look how it’s supposed to look!”, she said… with tears streaming down her face.

Morgan had already – even with only 3 years of pre-school – been so programmed to believe in “right” and “wrong” and rule-following… and how things are “supposed to be”… and “supposed to look”… that – in her mind – only the neat predictable cartoons, illustrated by adults, were “right”.

Her beautiful art – in her eyes – was wrong.

It took 2 years of gentle encouragement (and – of course – NO colouring-in-books and stupid rules like ‘colours must make sense’) until Morgan really began to embrace her own, unique creative expression.  Today, she draws confidently and many, many hours of joy has been derived from making art.

Here’s a little picture that she drew (about year ago).  I love it!


All of this reminds me of The Logical Song by Supertramp.

It goes like this:

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful – magical…

and all the birds in the trees, they’d be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully watching me…

Isn’t childhood like that?  When kids are so full of innocence and wonder?  When life is beautiful, miraculous, magical?

But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical…

and then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical…

Well… yes… that’s what school did.   That’s what school taught.  Even Morgan’s pre-school taught those lessons to her.  Taught her how to obey orders, be ‘good’, follow rules, fit in with everyone else and comply.

Watch what you say, or they’ll be calling you a radical… a liberal… fanatical, criminal…

“Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re acceptable, respectable, presentable…” (a vegetable)…

(That’s how I often feel about posting in this space…  we can’t be TOO honest… too radical… we need to watch-what-we-say….)

There are times when all the world’s asleep, these questions run so deep for such a simple man…

Will you please, please tell me what we’ve learned?  I know it sounds absurd – please tell me who I am!

Well…  I know who I am now.

And I know who my kids are.

And even though Society… in general… is still trying to tell us fit-in, slot-in, follow the rules, be normal… colour-in-the-lines… we have found SUCH freedom in saying:  “No thank-you.  We’re doing it OUR way”.