When did you decide to become an artist? Did you go to art school?
When I was five years old, I drew a cowboy, and my father told me I would be an artist when I grew up. I never stopped drawing. It was my first love. I started taking formal lessons when I was about 15 years old. Then after high school I graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I became a Visual Communicator.
If you weren’t an artist, what field would you have pursued? Why?
Our house was always full of music as I was growing up. My mother had a fabulous voice and my father played guitar and other stringed instruments. When I was in first grade I started playing the flute in school and progressed to the piccolo and piano.
Who were your artistic inspirations when you were starting out? Whose art inspires you today?
Arthur Rackham and Beatrix Potter. Also Peter Max and Charley Harper. I am still drawn to these artists but have an appreciation for Degas’ sculptures. I think it is the delicacy of Rackham and Potter illustrations that intrigue me. Peter Max and Charley Harper, of course, have a very different style of free form and geometric design that is amazing. They all have in common an ability to communicate so much with just the right amount of detail, which is so masterful. Degas sculptures make me happy. They are so full of movement and life. Whenever I visit the National Gallery of Art in D.C., I visit Degas’ Little Dancer straight away.
Could you tell us a bit about SeeSayCreate? What was the inspiration behind it? What does it hope to accomplish?
SeeSayCreate is a brand of books for children that combine an engaging story, a creative vocabulary list and art activities for a whole-minded learning experience. I was lucky enough to have a mother who read all of the time. As a child who loved to create art, I would often create drawings to go with a story. This spilled over to my own children. We would read a story, talk about words and what they meant and, often, when doing art, we would create characters from one of their books. I was always astonished to see parents and teachers who would read a story to the children and put the book back on the shelf with no further interaction between the book and their imaginations. Simply to bring to children a story book that doesn’t go directly back on the shelf after being read. Supplying parents and teachers with a book that can be fun to read together, introduce creative words into their vocabulary − such as harmony, jostled or cantankerous − plus the added bonus of art activities. Children work the left side of their brain when reading and the right side when creating art. Working both sides together is whole-minded learning and that is when the magic begins. Developing creative thought patterns help children think around problems and the result is an innovative mind so valuable for academic and social success.
Why would you recommend a solid arts education for children?
I have been developing art curriculum for approximately 21 years. I am always amazed at what children come up with when given the chance to create. In the art field, we always say that “art is always right.” What we mean is that art is simply right because it is your very own creation. In math, science or reading there is a right answer and a wrong answer. But in art whatever you dream up and create is right because it is uniquely your own. Children who benefit from a solid arts program are more inventive. They are more willing to think, “What if I do this or that?” They also are less prone to drifting off in classes if allowed to imagine in arts venues.
What does art do for a young mind?
It turns it on. Problem solving is a constant part of the process. Research enters into it when they look around at other artwork being done. How did they do that? What do I need to do to get that color? How can I communicate without speaking? It develops the parts of the brain that are needed to find answers, whether solving an engineering problem or what two colors make green.
I noticed that the term Creative Vocabulary came up when I was doing research on kids in art. Could you tell us a bit more about what it is?
Lots of books have vocabulary lists in them. Creative vocabulary is what we call words that spark up your dialogue. A child who can use words such as harrumphed or snickered when speaking or writing has a defi nite advantage. Th eir audience wants to listen to them and read their essays and stories. The amount of self-confi dence they gain from the simple ability to describe their thoughts in a more interesting way is priceless. You could say, “I didn’t know what to do.” Or you could say, “I was flummoxed.” It gets a giggle, is fun to say and yet makes the point. Using creative vocabulary deepens a child’s attention to how they express themselves.
Other than being relaxing, what − if any − benefi ts are there for adults who may want to take up painting or sculpting?
Oh, where can I start? Adults who have never had time or a chance to create suddenly fi nd a new energy inside. Learning something new and amazing when taking an art class, or exploring on your own, is fabulously exciting. Using more sophisticated art tools than they used as a child or with their children can be addictive. Throwing themselves into the slightly mysterious world of art can be life altering when doing something as simple as going to an art museum. A new level of self confidence and a chance to look inside and communicate in a diff erent way causes a rebirth in many adults. Being an artist is not having the ability to draw well. Art is so much more. It is sculpture, painting, dancing, drawing, singing and acting, carving, weaving and so on. A creative person needs only to be able to come up with new ideas. There are all diff erent kinds of artists out there; amateurs and professionals, realists and abstractionists.
Is there anything you would like our readers to know about you?
I am blessed to have a family and circle of friends who allow me to indulge my artistic abilities. I developed Artlingz and SeeSayCreate to bring what I know to children everywhere. I was a graphic designer/illustrator for years before turning to art education. Prompted by a lack of art classes at a math and science magnet school my children attended in California, I started teaching art in their classrooms. I eventually taught other parents and volunteers to teach art in their own children’s classes. Seeing firsthand the diff erences between kids who have consistent art education and no art education convinced me that I needed to get involved in a bigger way. So many of our schools across the nation were cutting school budgets and art was often the first to go. I wrote art education books for teachers and homeschoolers. I developed art curriculum for schools and programs. But I was sad when programs couldn’t run because parents couldn’t aff ord art classes or manage the logistics for all of the children in their families. So I decided to take it one step further and create Artlingz, an on-line art activity warehouse full of creative activities for everyone to enjoy at anytime, anyplace. Now not only can teachers and program directors develop entire art curriculums using materials they have on hand, but also scout leaders, grandma and the babysitter can do quality art with their kids right at the kitchen table. SeeSayCreate was a way to get kids reading and creating to complete the circle.