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The Heart of his Art

Painting by, Zach

When my son Zach was little, he liked toy stores but never really wanted anything. Hoping to find his interests, we’d encourage him to pick something out. But, he’d look around and walk away. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful we somehow escaped those stressful flee-from-the store episodes. You know the kind: parent running football-style with screaming kid who wants all the toys. We just wanted him to want something.

Many toys and games were bought for him - things we thought he might like once they were opened in the comfort of home. Some toys were a hit, but most failed to capture his attention. Through the years, many toys ended up in the donation bin.

I can’t be completely certain when it started, but I think it had to do with a drawing table inside a Disney store. Or, it might have been sparked by some restaurant’s package of generic crayons. Whatever it was, coloring became the most desirable activity. And to this day, it still is.

Coloring takes many forms. It began, naturally, with crayons. We’ve explored colored pencils, pastels, velvet crayons, dry erase crayons, washable markers, and more. It’s actually more accurate to say that Zach became interested in and fascinated by all-things-art.

Whether it’s finger-paints, watercolors, chalk, or scratch pads, creating something is what Zach loves to do. Nowadays, whether we’re in an actual toy shop or a big-box store, he is always on the lookout for art supplies.

The lack of “want” as a toddler has been made up for in spades. So much so, that a few years back, we needed professional behavioral assistance in navigating stores. I’d go in for the usual things, and someone would bolt to gather 28 boxes of crayons.

Through the years, Zach developed ‘craydar.’ Crayon radar. He can spot those yellow and green boxes anywhere. Take him to a thrift store - he will hunt down those waxy sticks. He once found an old, frayed box of used crayons under a platter on a shelf in an antique store. Cerulean Blue must have been calling his name.

You can imagine my glee when a trip to the dollar store one day resulted in ‘craydar’ leading us to giant boxes of joy for $1 each! And for some reason, every once in a while the Goodwill Store will have a humungous bag of crayons on the shelf for .49¢. It is like finding buried treasure.

For all the times Zach has located and appropriately asked for art supplies, that’s how many times I’ve marched up to the checkout without any hesitation. Like a squirrel collecting acorns for winter, Zach stores crayons and chalk in various cubbyholes. We have reserves for the reserves.

Edwin and Alice Binney and Edwin’s cousin C. Harold Smith may not have had any idea how popular their Crayola crayons would become. They saw its success in the early 1900s when Edwin invented a new crayon by adding paraffin to the charcoal and pigment mixture, replacing the oil formerly used. One interesting fact is that Edwin is said to have been color blind.

Alice is responsible for creating the name Crayola: she combined the French word “craie” (meaning stick of chalk) and “ola” from oleaginous (meaning oily).

We've checked out some of the coloring apps. I don’t think any technology out there that allows on-screen coloring compares to the authenticity of the crayon. While it may provide temporary amusement, coloring with one’s finger on a tablet limits sensory feedback. Holding crayons, markers, or chalk in the hands provides a complete artistic experience.

I am thrilled Zach found a passion which is always there for him and never lets him down. His art gives us a better sense of who he is inside and allows for creative, possibly emotional, outlets for him.

Every once in a while, he will hand you one of his crayon creations, which in Zach-speak means I like this one…you can keep it. Other times, a certain creation will catch my eye, and I’ll snatch it up before it gets crumpled. I have quite a collection.

"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." Thomas Merton

Painting by, Zach


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