Don’t let curriculum suffocate creativity

There’s an exhibition about the work of Quentin Blake touring the country at the moment and I was lucky enough to see it.

If you’re not sure who he is just think about your Roald Dahl books, as most of us are familiar with his work through his illustration of them – the BFG or Matilda being among them. Quentin Blake also produces his own books in collaboration with John Yeoman.

I suspect most parents who’ve read a Roald Dahl book to their kids will be familiar with Blake’s beautiful scribbly drawings, the characters and their expressive faces clearly displaying the emotion and telling parts of the story the writer cannot with simple words! He is extremely clever.

The beauty of his drawings when you consider them as art works, particularly as an example to our children, is that they’re not exact representations of what people actually look like. They’re better than that – and showing so much more as such.

And why that’s important is this: people get so hung up about drawing and trying to make something actually look like the object being drawn – rather than making their own personal representation of it, their own art work. And this inhibits so many creatives, puts a stop to many people being creative when they’re feel their work is no good. When they’re judged.

Our daughter was seven when she was told that by a teacher in school; that she’d drawn something badly, (?!! at 7 for goodness sake!!!) and it took her a long time to recover from that and begin once more to practise her creativity in its many forms, as part of her home education. (The tale is told in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’)

No art work is wrong or bad! Any art work or creative endeavour in whatever form is incredibly personal, and incredibly individual. That’s the whole point of it and why it’s so special – no one else could do it the same as you. ‘Wrong’ doesn’t come into it!

Although skills can be learnt through studying technique or understanding materials and marks, the raw creativity and imagination needed to produce drawings and artwork of any kind is unique to an individual and should never be made to ‘fit’ or ‘look like’ anything else necessarily. Original expression is inherent in each of us and needs to be nurtured as such not inhibited by comments such as my daughter received. And that’s a great flaw in curriculum in relation to creativity; if we’re not careful curriculum can be the death of it. Curriculum diktat ruins originality. It can stop you being creative and thinking outside the norm with your education too!

Children and young people need encouragement to create. Especially when these days they’re more practised at holding a console than a pencil. But essentially creativity is the foundation of many valuable skills that can be transferred across education, and enhances brain development far more broadly than learning times tables for example.

Anyone can learn times tables – they already exist. But creative endeavours are unique to each individual, who knows what will be created, and they play an essential part in the perpetuation of our species and our planet. Read this to see why. We need creative skills like we need air! It’s an irreplaceable part of the educational process.

So drawing, painting, modelling, telling stories, drawing stories like Quentin Blake, scribbling, doodling, all develop part of our children’s intelligence in a way nothing else can. Along with being creative in how you curate education!

I suggested our daughter spent some time ‘drawing badly’ to get over those remarks!

And I suggest you encourage your kids to draw in whatever style suits them, like Quentin Blake draws in his own distinctive style.

You never know, you might have another Blake in the making!

8 thoughts on “Don’t let curriculum suffocate creativity

  1. Totally agree, thanks Ross. Although it also struck me as I read this, how often ‘consoles’ spark creativity in my children, as much as pencils 🙂 And not just in the ‘creative’ options available in the games themselves but also off screen – drawing, modelling, making, story-telling, and role play, so much fun to be had.

    • Thanks Hayley, Great to hear that. I totally appreciate how inspiration can strike from all sources. Often when you least expect it! Many thanks for commenting.

  2. That’s why we really need to get our kids into hands-on things! So they can find their creativity!


  3. I really enjoy reading your posts. I remember being told not to pursue Art at school because I was weak and they wouldn’t sign my options form. I so wish I’d pushed to keep doing it as I still love art now!

  4. This is so true, my son recently had to write a story and some poetry and was struggling so much as the teacher in his class said it had to contain certain elements, lots of which I have no idea what he is talking about when he talks at home I usually have to google what they mean. And he used to love writing stories and even about a year ago was loving writing poetry. Not this year. Different teacher and more pressure as is in a shared class of year 5 and 6 so picking up the SATs vibe to do well and put in all those grammatical elements that are needed to mark how well they are understanding stuff – where is the creativity in that. Sorry rant over! I think slowly it is turning my son of learning apart from the more practical side which he gets a lot of at home to help him relax from the stress and yes I mean stress of school.

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