MaryAnn Kohl's Frequently Asked Questions ~ FAQs
1. What ages of children will benefit from your books?
My books are filled with art experiences created for children ages 2-12. Younger children will need a little supervision, and older children will create more independently. My books are for all children, all ages, all abilities, all interests.
2. You often say, “It’s the process, not the product.” Is this the main premise of your books?
All of the art experiences in my books value the “process of art,” and encourage children to think for themselves about how to use materials to make art their own. Exploration, discovery, and experimentation are key to each child’s creative progress. Children do not copy any adult’s sample art. The final product is not as important as the process of creating, though of course children may like what they have made.
3. Is the finished product of a child’s art important?
The final product or finished outcome of the art is not as important as the process of how it came to be, that is, what the child experienced and learned along the way. The visual end results of the art will be unique to each child and will delight and inspire both children and adults. If the child feels the resulting finished art is important, then it is important. If the child wishes to throw it away, then that is fine too. Also, the finished art can be a record of the child’s art experience, like a map or a visual journal of what they just completed, helping remind them of the art process.
4. What about older children? Don’t they want art that looks good?
Elementary-age children are beginning to be more interested in results from their art. They want art that is satisfying to do and pleasing to view. They want to maintain their individual creative integrity while producing aesthetically pleasing results. For older children we might say, “It’s the process, and unique expression, not the product.” But no matter what age, all children want to feel free to experiment and explore art materials, and to see what is possible. There is no right way or wrong way for a child’s endeavors to turn out; there is only their way.
5. Will I have to buy expensive or fancy art materials to do process art?
Art supplies and materials should be readily available in most classrooms, childcare centers, and homes, and if not, easy to find at grocery stores and other department stores that have art and office supplies. Crayons, glue, scissors, paints, tape, and construction paper are typical of the supplies to keep on hand. Other things may be collected including collage materials, such as leaves, cotton balls, corks, sewing scraps and buttons. I try to keep the materials recommended in my books inexpensive and easy to find.
6. How often should your child do art?
Children can do art every day if time allows. If a child has easy, free access to basic art materials, they can draw or paint, cut and paste, sew, collage or sculpt in their free time without much adult help. Provide a small shelf with boxes of supplies for independent use. Be sure to include tape, scissors, glue, and stapler.
7. How is art different from “crafts”?
Art is freer and more individual than what many people call “crafts”. (I call these projects “artsy cutsies”.) Art does not follow definite steps to create a finished product; “crafts” follow steps to make a certain thing, to copy an adult made sample. Though the results may be slightly unique, the outcome of crafts is expected and a known product. Art does not have an expected outcome. For example as a craft, if an adult makes a bunny from a paper plate and cotton balls, and shows it to the child, the child is expected to make something similar and try to follow what the adult as done. On the other hand, if an adult places paper plates, cotton balls, and other art materials on the art table, the end result of what the child will create are unknown…and exciting! Crafts are fun to do and have some value in following directions, but crafts should not be the bulk of a child’s experience with creativity. Art gives a child true creative experience that value the child’s own ideas and efforts.
8. Do you have any new books planned?
I’m happy to announce that I’m working on a new book with my daughter, Hannah Kohl, who writes musical theatre in New York. Hannah taught music and music composition for over three years, so she’s very tuned in to the area of creative music for children of all ages. She has worked on Broadway shows and is developing some of her own plays, both adult and children’s musicals. We thought it would be fun for kids to learn about the great composers, and will have our new book “Great Composers for Kids” published in 2011.
9. Were you a creative child? Did you like art?
I did not have much art in school as a child, but whenever we did have art, I remember feeling “hungry”, like I couldn’t get enough of it. Luckily my mom supported my love of art with basic supplies like crayons and colored chalk, and huge pads of paper; most of all, she gave me the free time to work independently. I was never especially talented in producing fine art, but I always loved art and spent a lot of time working on drawings and paintings at home. I had free time in my day, and devoted it to creative experiences like building forts, making up plays and shows, sewing doll clothes, and of course, art.
10. What other things have you done in your career?
When I graduated from college, I became an elementary teacher in kindergarten. Later I also taught second grade and first grade. I loved teaching! Teaching is where I discovered how much children love art. I have also taught college level early childhood classes, continue to consult for some companies like Fisher-Price and The Jim Henson Company, write for magazines like Parenting and Family Fun, and share my joy and expertise in art with teachers and childcare providers all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Germany. I hope to travel to more countries and meet more educators and children in the future.
11. What kinds of creative things do you like to do as an adult?
I spend most of my time writing books and testing the art activities with children. When not writing, I am working with adults and children doing art projects from my books, traveling all over the country giving presentations about art –a great delight to me. When I’m not working, I enjoy playing outside: kayaking, snow skiing, jetskiing, or playing with our dog. I love to read and attend Broadway musicals, and enjoy seeing the plays and concerts children are in. Artistically, I’ve tried my hand at watercolor painting, which I love. I dream of writing a children’s novel. Being with family is my favorite thing to do, and with our family, it’s always fun.
12. Do you have anything else planned for your future?
There are several things I’d like to accomplish in my future. One is that I would love to write a children’s novel about a child growing up in the 50s so children of today might know what that kind of life was like. I’d love to write a picture book, and have a few ideas I think would please children. I also look forward to having grandchildren some day, to visiting sunny places often, and to spending time with family and friends all over the country.
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