Janeen Mason and the Art of Creativity

 Interview with Author/Illustrator Janeen Mason

 

Janeen, can you tell me a little about GIFT OF THE MAGPIE? 

GIFT OF THE MAGPIE is a colorful picture book about two friends who miscommunicate.  It’s funny and sweet, silly and – OH NO – (even a little embarrassing)!  But in the end it’s a story about friends who love you “quirks and all.” Gift of the Magpie
Can you talk a little about your creative process. 
Sure!  My life is a creative process. I bounce out of bed when it’s still dark, feed the cats. let the dog out, fix myself a cup of coffee, read the paper and skip into my studio by about 7:30 a.m.  If I’m painting the illustrations for a new book I hit the lights, turn on an audio book and sit down at my drafting table with big dabs of bright new paint squeezed fresh on a porcelain plate.   I spend hundreds and hundreds of happy hours like this, surrounded by animals, basking in colors and story. 
Other times I might be away from home speaking at schools, or involved in meetings around the state.   I loved being a kid, and of all the things I do, speaking to kids is right up at the top of my list of favorites.  I think I may have met a future president or two, already!  When I’m traveling like this, my calendar is full, my email gets cluttered, my studio is dark.  
Whether I’m at home or away, I have to remember to ask myself: Am I journaling?  Meditating?  Reading for the fun of it?  Making time for a quiet mind?  Am I allowing space in my life for unexpected joy? You see, it is in the quiet times when new ideas bubble up and float into my awareness.  I live for new ideas, because they are the very things that make me bounce out of bed when it’s still dark, feed the cats, let the dog out, fix myself a cup of coffee… well you get the idea.
I love to learn, and I love to share.  By writing and illustrating children’s books, and by speaking at schools, conferences, and book festivals, I have a way to show others the things that I think matter.
Saturday, March 31, 2 p.m., I’ll be at the UCF Orlando Book Festival.  http://education.ucf.edu/bookfest/authors.cfm  Come on down!  

 

Gift of the Magpie - Book Trailer
Gift of the Magpie – Book Trailer
Why do you think it’s so important to instill creativity and an appreciation of the arts in children
On a pragmatic level, children who are creative are fearless problem solvers.  Kids who have been exposed to arts and culture produce good fruit for themselves and for our society.  Many studies exist that quantify educational gains in students who have had arts in their curriculum.  It’s easy to find these on Google. 
I believe the inverse is also true.  Communities that stopped funding for the arts later discovered they were required to increase their funding for the juvenile justice system.
On an intuitive level, children who learn to create learn to trust their inner voice, and use the experience throughout life.  I doubt that many kids remember answers to specific questions on standardized tests, but kids who learn to paint, or sing, or dance, or play the french horn?  They’re never going to forget the experience.  They’ll always have the tools to self medicate in a healthy way. 
On a philosophical level, the arts connect us directly through the heart, and they do so across the barriers of time and distance and language.  We all share the human experience.  The arts are one of our most powerful common denominators.

 

 
What can folks do to help children develop their own creativity and an appreciation for the arts?
OH!
TURN OFF THE TV!
PUT AWAY THE VIDEO GAMES!
Read books!  Turn over rocks!  Sing!  Laugh!  Tell stories!  Read more books!  Visit museums!  Go snorkeling!  Color!  Visit the library!  Take a walk!  Go see a play!  Learn to dance!  Experience joy!  Read more books!  Make up a tall tale!  Talk about ideas! Play the handbells!  Weave a potholder!  Write poetry!  Play the flute! Bake cupcakes!  Ride a bike!  Collect marbles!  Make puppets! Write a play with a friend!  Sing some more!  March in a parade! Draw a dog sleeping!  Make a kite!  Go to a musical!  Talk about it! Paint what you see when you look through a microscope!
I believe the arts can be used to teach everything – and because we EXPERIENCE art, the material is likely to stick.
Did I say, READ BOOKS!

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for the creative inspiration, Janeen. I’m going to go an paint a picture!

 

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