One of the amazing things about young children is the enthusiasm and joy with which they approach their creative endeavours. When is it that doubt starts to set in and that creative freedom switches to something more conformist?
In some cases, the pressure to make things ‘perfect’ can become a real barrier to a child’s emotional and academic development. ‘Art and Joy’ helps children develop a growth mindset and be able to turn any ‘mistakes’ into something quite wonderful.
Scroll down to read Danielle’s piece about how she finally silenced her inner critic and why she decided to take a break from writing books for artsy adults to create a picture book aimed at inspiring and encouraging young artists.
“This is the story of two best friends―Art and Joy―and how they overcome the insidious “Art Bully” that criticizes their creative endeavors. Danielle Krysa knows that kids have an inner critic too―the kind that tells them their artworks are stupid, messy, the wrong color, or just plain wrong. Employing the same arch humor that make her books for adults so relatable and helpful, Krysa illustrates this uplifting tale with her brilliantly colored collages and witty typography. As Art and Joy learn how to tap into their imaginations and shrug off the Art Bully, they also discover some clever ways to get their creative juices flowing using color, shape, line and found objects. Kids of all ages will find enthusiastic support and valuable inspiration in this playful parable.”
‘Silencing Your Inner Critic’
by Danielle Krysa.
Danielle Krysa is a mixed-media artist, writer and speaker. After experiencing criticism from an art tutor that cut so deeply it stopped her creating art for 20 years, Danielle has rediscovered her creative joy and is helping others to do the same. She has written several books on the topics of creative block and dealing with the inner critic, as well as delivering workshops and talks on these themes for TEDx, PIXAR and on oprah.com, among others. Today she talks to us about her new children’s book, Art and Joy: Best Friends Forever, and the important role adults can play in helping children maintain creative joy.
I started a blog called The Jealous Curator in February 2009. It was only meant to be for me, as a way to dip my toe back into the art world (after a 20 year hiatus) since graduating from art school. I needed a way to turn the toxicity of the jealousy I was feeling toward everyone who was actually making artwork into something positive, because the negativity was eating me alive. Where did this come from? Well, I was ‘the art kid’ growing up, but I had a really hard time at art school pretty much from the beginning. The cherry on top happened a few weeks before graduating as a painting major. At my final class critique, my painting professor said — in front of my entire class — “YOU SHOULD NEVER PAINT AGAIN”. Unfortunately, I listened. That was the day my inner critic/Art Bully showed up. Don’t worry, I know how to handle that little voice now! Initially, I wanted the blog to be anonymous. For the first 4 years or so, I didn’t even have my name on there. It was very freeing just being ‘The Jealous Curator’. That said, the cat’s outta the bag now!
That helped me to rediscover my love for making art, and I now work from my home studio, a newly-converted basement in my 114 year old farm house in BC, Canada. I still experience creative blocks, of course, but whenever I’m feeling stuck, I have a bunch of tricks I pull out, pretty much all of which are little assignments. My favorite one involves going to the thrift shop, aka my happy place! Here’s my go-to challenge: “Go to the thrift shop, buy one book, come home and make 3 collages using only the images from that book”. Another good one, that helps me tap into my inner art kid, is a trip to the dollar store. Try setting yourself a $5-10 limit, buy a bunch of weird craft supplies, and then make something the six-year-old you would be proud of!
I realised that I wanted to help other people find or rediscover their creative joy, and I wrote my first book for artsy adults in 2012 — and then I wrote another and another and another, etc. When I’d finished book number five, which like all of the others was focused on getting people past creative blocks, quieting inner critics, and jump-starting creativity, I had an epiphany. I was at a book signing for that fifth book, and so many people I talked to kept telling me the same story — that at some point around the age of six or seven, they’d been told they ‘couldn’t be an artist’, either by a teacher or family member. WHAT? Yes, it is an unbelievably common story! So, I thought ‘Well, I can write yet another book for grown-ups about how to jumpstart creativity after not making anything since childhood, OR I could sneak around to the front of this problem and talk to kids BEFORE they get stopped’. My hope is that if a child ever hears ‘you’re not creative’, ‘art isn’t a real job’, or ‘don’t waste your time on something so silly’, they’ll remember this book and know they can be as creative as they like!
Sometimes this little inner critic voice shows up because of something a teacher, parent, adult or other kid has said. These words can get planted in our heads like seeds, and if we believe them as truths, they’ll grow like spiky tangly weeds. Some children (and adults!) also compare their drawings or paintings to siblings or the kid sitting beside them at school. I think it’s so important for EVERYONE to remember, we all have our own unique way of creating — just imagine if we all made things the same way?! What a boring world that would be.
In my new book, Art and Joy are two best friends who love being creative… until the Art Bully shows up and starts whispering doubts in Art’s ear! Worried about making something silly or wrong, Art slowly pushes Joy away hoping to quieten that pesky Art Bully — but now something wonderful is gone. Art gets so caught up in everything being Perfect and Right that they can’t create anything at all. I hope it’s a really accessible – and fun! – story for even really young children that will help them to celebrate their imaginations and have the confidence to create whatever makes them happy!
In our competitive, results-focused society, us adults have a responsibility to help young children nurture a carefree attitude towards their creative output. I think it’s so important to let kids create the way they want to create. If they want to color outside the lines, great! If they want to color INSIDE the lines, great! Allowing them to be free to make creative decisions and then encouraging them, not critiquing them, is a wonderful start. I hope that this book will help with all of that.
I would love for every classroom in the world to have this book because the ‘Art Bully’ has lots of friends — like the Sports Bully, the Math Bully, etc. I’d be so happy if dealing with that little voice in your head that says ‘I can’t’ could be a regular topic of conversation from kindergarten through graduation. I know it would have helped me. And on a less serious note, there are a few pretty fun projects on the last page that I hope teachers and kids will do — and love — right after reading the book!
Art and Joy: Best Friends Forever by Danielle Krysa is published by Prestel, out now.
£12.99 hardback, ISBN 9783791375373.
Find Danielle at thejealouscreator.com and on Instagram @thejealouscreator.
I think sometimes we just need to embrace our inner creativity and let our imaginations flow! I’m already planning how I can use this book in my setting to help encourage the children to be resilient, try again, and believe in themselves.
*Many thanks to Prestel Publishing for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*
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