This past Tuesday afternoon I spent one shining hour basking in the glow of newfound celebrity status. My audience, though small in stature was by no means short on enthusiasm.
They came armed with blank paper and colorful crayons, clever questions and boundless curiosity. Not to mention a propensity to fidget. After all, you can only expect fifty fourth graders to sit criss-cross applesauce for so long.
For weeks now I have anticipated my first school visit as a published illustrator to Woodland Hills Elementary School. I designed an engaging presentation complete with new illustrations and even a few from my own school days. I practiced out loud and recruited my mom (a former elementary school teacher) as my final litmus test. Nothing though could have prepared me for the unabashed enthusiasm and energy of these 10 and 11-year olds.
It’s all too easy, especially when working against a tight deadline, to forget the why in order to simply get the work done on time. But as I flipped slides, distilling a yearlong process of concept to illustration, layout to publication, I was reminded why illustration, children’s book illustration is so important to me. Simply put, it brings the inner child out in me.
Certainly, I need deadlines and to-do lists to keep me accountable. But like those kids, even as an adult, I need time to let my mind wander, to ask questions that I may not always know the answer to, to create simply for the sake of creating.
As we grow older, our creativity begins to fade, especially if we don’t continue to tap into the wellspring that kept us drawing and building and tinkering in the years before we even entered elementary school.
Of course these kids will chart their own paths from the end of their fourth grade year and beyond. They’ll be both inspired by and conformed to the world around them. I hope though that as they grow older, they remember what they enjoyed as a child. Maybe, like me, one of them loves to draw.
You never know where that might lead.