Friday, November 21, 2014

Drawing Multicultural Representations

As an art teacher you are often asked creative favors, and more often than not the favor takes longer than the person who is asking thinks it will take. For me, the reason some of these creative tasks take longer than expected is because of how invested I become in completing them successfully as they often will affect many people.

Recently, my school asked me to redesign a coloring book that they give as a welcome packet to potential Pre-K and Kindergarten students. The book is supposed to show a day in the life and ease the anxiety a four-year-old child may have about visiting a new place. The problem with asking me to make illustrations that represent a diverse student population was that, at the time, I was taking a grad class on diversity and very much in the throes of struggling with all the "isms" of society. Racism, sexism, etc. are tough topics and understanding how they operate subliminally in an educational setting is even more unsettling. I felt like Atlas with the weight of the world on my shoulders when I first begin sketching! How was I going to make effective multicultural representations in a coloring book?!

I based my drawings on many different students
I began by observing my students and watching how they moved and posed. Sometimes I would see a student crouching down with her kilt draping gracefully around her and try to remember it. The biggest lesson I learned is that you cannot create in a vacuum. Sharing early sketches and initiating conversations with peers and kids is a great way to get quick and honest feedback. I even snuck a few copies into my scrap bin to see how how my kids would react to them. Now that the illustrations are finally complete I am proud of them and hope that our diverse student population sees themselves in these multicultural representations.

This drawing of their toys was one of the most fun to make! Blocks, Legos, painting, play kitchen, dress up, etc.!

I kept the same eight kids in all the drawings--4 boys and 4 girls of varying and sometimes indiscernible
ethnicities and races.

As always, I'd love to hear any feedback or comments from you parents, teachers, and fellow bloggers! Have you ever been asked to create something like this? If so, how did you break a huge, important task down into manageable pieces?