The Children’s Book Council asked authors what are “3 Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Answer?” I wondered, when did I know I was an illustrator? When did I make the leap from coloring books to drawing my own pictures, and did those pictures tell a story? I read an article here that suggests that the original coloring books were for adults. As early as the 1600s coloring was an activity to encourage learning.
“…for the practise of the hand doth speedily instruct the minde, and strongly confirme the memory beyond any thing else.” –Henry Peacham’s Compleat Gentleman, 1634
Coloring books were a great way to occupy a child. Who knew we were developing our minds and our hand eye coordination? I was a dreamy kid. Coloring was something I did to explore my thoughts. I could daydream and color for hours. My relationship to color began with a Christmas set of 72 crayons bearing color names as mysterious as their visual sensation; periwinkle, maize, bittersweet, midnight, mulberry… colors that inhabited other worlds. I would be dazzled and sometimes overwhelmed by color for the rest of my life. In first grade we were given a gigantic piece of paper that covered our desk and some crayons. “Draw something,” said our ancient teacher, Mrs. Hickman. She wore her glasses hanging on a beaded necklace, and a cardigan like Mr. Rogers, yet for some reason she was frightening. I could fill a stack of coloring books, but what should I draw? I was excited and a little daunted. Just then, the chubby girl with the leotards threw up all over the floor – right next to me! Chaos ensued, the janitor came in with his mop contraption, the wild ropey strings twisting and squeezing through the wringer, like my grandma’s forbidden washing machine. Next came the banana-chemical spray that permeated the nostrils of your memory forever. It was almost worse than the barf. I drew a tiny girl in the corner of my paper and filled the page with fantastic swirls and colors of throw up, with chunks and dots to make a decorative pattern. Could you blame me? Mrs. Hickman snatched up my paper, gave me a disgusting look, wrinkled it into a ball and threw it in the trash. I was dumbfounded if not horrified and insulted. Good thing she didn’t ruin my enthusiasm -all I wanted to do was tell a story with pictures.