Getting your kids into art is a winning proposition. A tongue-in-cheek meme I recently read counsels: “Get your kids into art, and they’ll never have enough money for drugs.” As is often the case, there’s truth hidden in the joke that has nothing to do with the financial aspect of creating art and everything to do with kids and art as a pairing that can set them on a healthier and happier path through life, making the benefits long lasting.
According to neuroscience, next to meditation, art is one of the best things a person can do for their brain. While working, I go into a state of high awareness while not being aware of myself at all. I “get lost” in drawing. I lose track of time, while my focus is on creating an image.
During the process of creating art, there is a singular focus on something outside of ourselves, an attempt to capture a feeling we are experiencing. The brain is highly engaged, as decisions have to be made at every second: which color is needed here? How deep is that shadow on the face? Where do I put the highlights? Do I include imperfections of the original in my drawing? Does that eyebrow really arch that high?
When I sit and draw, I can feel myself reaching into the paper with my pencils, trying to bring into being a feeling that is intimately about me and a feeling I want to express, and at the same time, it’s all about the face of the dog/bird/elephant I’m drawing, not about me. All of my attention and my feelings are engaged and are one with the piece I am creating. The sensation for me is very much like sitting in a kayak and paddling down a river with a strong current, trying to go with the current but maintaining some degree of control. This rare heightened state of the mind is often described as “flow”, or “the zone”, or by musicians, “the crush”.
Unlike math problems or a biology homework assignment, both of which require focus as well, creating art involves feelings. The process of creating a work of art demands all the skill, technique and mastery of tools at the artist’s disposal, but goes beyond a mental exercise into the realm of the artist’s emotions. Most of the time an artist, regardless of age, will choose to create what they love, or what they feel strongly about. This literally puts the creator of art in touch with his/her feelings.
Now think about how valuable being able to do this is to children. To be in a space where they can disconnect from a reality that at times is overwhelming, distracting or painful and dwell in a space that is uniquely, completely and without compromise their own. By getting your kids into art at an early age, you will give them the gift of expressing themselves in lines, shapes and colors. They can create a refuge for themselves where they can engage in an activity that is soothing and fun, healthy for their brains and their emotions and if the practice is encouraged, can bring benefits all the way into old age.