The Suitcase Lady


November 26, 2013, 1:42 pm

I’m an art teacher and a firm believer in the amazing creativity of children. My first goal for my  youngest students is to keep their spontaneous, delightful art pouring out of them for as long as possible.

Naturally, I abhor coloring books, stencils, patterns and gimmicks that show kids how to make copy cat “art”. In an ideal world, adults inspire young artists to express themselves.

This introduction brings me to a classic example of how to destroy children’s  natural drawing abilities. I seethe when I see it: the turkey hand.

The children are taught to draw around their hand and turn their thumb into a turkey head and their fingers into feathers of prescribed colors. Many children shown this gimmick will never draw an original turkey again……why think about how to draw something if you don’t have to? That’s dumbing down, turkey style.

I was recently doing a class on landscape drawing with middle schoolers who never had an art teacher  during their elementary school years. As I was walking around the room looking at the evolving drawings, I was stopped cold at one student’s desk. An eighth grade boy was tracing around his hand making a landscape of turkeys.

“Guess what?” I said as gently and unobtrusively as possible. “Turn your paper over and draw anything original and I’ll be the happiest art teacher in the world.”

I don’t expect older kids all to be proficient artists, but I do want them to know what art is …….and isn’t.

I once suggested to a group of my young students to draw a picture of  ” Turkeys on the Tundra”.  These are my kind of  turkeys; did you know they rode snowmobiles?

Turkey Hands 2

2 Comments for this entry

  • evie

    Mary I agree that 8th grade is a bit old for the tracing thing. On a more positive–or at least humorous note–I remember hearing local TV anchorpeople visiting schools at this time–I forget why–and inquiring of kindergartners “How many legs does a turkey have?” Much to their surprise, more than a few–after some deliberation–declare “four.”

  • Noreen Strehlow

    Had to laugh because I collect the Dover coloring books. They had some of the nicest and intricate drawings of birds and other animals. I had kids use them as exemplars only. NEVER to color in.