Ever since the age of about 2, my daughter has loved to draw or scribble as it were. Endless numbers of crayons and sheets of paper have fallen the the bin due to her ravenous attempts at transposing the images of life as seen by her own mind’s eye into some form of visual representation.
I love the fact that she draws. I love to see the focus, passion and satisfaction of being proud when she creates something. I want to nurture that experience, to encourage her to continue doing what she loves, even at the age of 4. Being proud supporters of her skill we did what most loving parents would do – We picked our favorites with her, framed them and hung them on the wall.
What I was not a fan of, was the sheer numbers of sheets of paper she would go through in a week. That is when it hit me. I have a Mac and a Wacom Pen tablet, why not let her have a go at that. I wanted to see if she could make the jump from a tactile crayon experience to the digital realm. What I found was that it only took a quick explanation of “This side is the pen and the other side is the eraser.” To get her going.
Now, I fancy myself to have been a bit of an artist in my earlier years and a while back purchased the software Art Rage Studio
for the Mac thinking I would have the time and energy to sit down and pick up where I left off during my last few years of high school. That adventure never materialized, and I quickly realized that if I couldn’t use it, I had all of the pieces to get my daughter into something to further her own passion without further draining the worlds supply of trees.
Again, my daughter is 4 and although Art Rage is designed for, well, artists, I wasn’t about to go and look around for software for kids that focuses on what color is what, or what shape is what; she is already beyond that. In the back of my mind I thought she wouldn’t be that into how difficult the software would be and would either stop drawing altogether or move back to crayons & paper. This was to be an experiment into the flexibility of a child’s ability to adapt to something new, despite how challenging it is.
I must say the first day was a bit frustrating as she was completely unfamiliar with the computer. There were little things that I tried to get through to her which she seemed to not grasp at all. Simple things like picking colors or tools like paint brushes vs. rollers vs. stamps. When we were finished I think we were both pretty exhausted with the exercise. We achieved painting the background blue and using the stamp tool to paint bubbles over it (She was into Little Mermaid.)
However, that first day turned out, it sparked something in her. The next day she came to me and said “Daddy, can we do painting work?” That is what she calls it. I said sure, fired up Art Rage again and prepared myself for another evening of over the shoulder driving. Not 2 minutes into it she said “It’s O.K. Daddy, I can do it” and she was off. Picking colors like a pro, only stopping to ask me what the different tools were to choose from or how to bring some window back to pick a template. She actually absorbed the basics of the application! We had made a breakthrough.
It is about a month into it now and Art Rage has become almost an evening planned activity for her as she waits for me to set up the MacBook, plug in the tablet, launch the application, then step aside. Her mind begins to race as her tiny right hand dabbles away on the wacom tablet, all the while her eyes are peeled to the screen. It took me a lot longer to separate my visual cortex from what my hands were doing and here she had it down without skipping a beat. Her “work” has gotten better as she creates picture after picture erasing one after the other and starting again.
A child’s imagination is an amazing thing. Watching her so focused on creating what she sees inside herself however juvenile it may be is something I realize I lost in myself a long time ago. If they say that parents live vicariously through the lives of their own children, then I am most happy. I will continue to encourage What I found has simply amazed me in her ability to pick up something new and complex and begin to expand on it.
As for Art Rage, I would just say that despite the complexity behind the application’s purpose, the interface is a brilliant design that has enabled my daughter to push herself into the world of Art. I am only trying to figure out when to introduce more of the more difficult foundations of art to her. Maybe I’ll start with colors. As a parent, I have learned that we shouldn’t always hold back from introducing our children to thinks we believe are too difficult for them to comprehend just because society assigns age labels on boxes indicating what our children can or can not learn at what age, only they can tell us that.