As many children and parents know, creativity can be messy. For award-winning illustrator and author Laura Huliska-Beith, that is exactly the way it should be.
Huliska-Beith paid a visit Monday to the students at Parkview Elementary to explain why it is very important to use one’s imagination and creativity and to always be observant.
“As an illustrator I use a lot of different tools to do my work,” Huliska-Beith said. “I have pens and brushes and fabric and even crayons that I use, but two of the most important tools that I use are my imagination and the observation of what is around me.
“So many of the best ideas come from the world around me and from my brain,” she added. “Your brain is the place where memories and dreams come from.”
Huliska-Beith is the author of one book, “The Book of Bad Ideas,” and has illustrated 20 other works, primarily children’s books.
“I would certainly like to write more,” Huliska-Beith said. “I find my strength though is in illustration.
“When I was young art was so important,” she added. “It was the No. 1 way I communicated.”
Huliska-Beith said her parents did a great deal to foster her artistic ability and it is from them and their encouragement that she now wants to give back her love of art to others, especially children.
To foster that love, Huliska-Beith took students through the creative process, explaining there are steps an author or an illustrator must take in the creative process.
Huliska-Beith drew one of her most popular characters, Mean Jean the Recess Queen, and then showed the students how adding four lines can change the entire perception of a character, in this case from mean to tired.
“We’ve been working a lot with our students on the writing process and trying to get them to realize that the character has to match what the story is about,” Parkview Instructional Coach Jamie Sparks said. “I think it was a real eye-opener for the students to see how a character can change and develop right before their eyes.”
For Huliska-Beith, another important aspect of the writing process is research.
“I used a lot of observation as research when I was illustrating ‘Little Red Hot,’” Huliska-Beith said. “When I don’t know how to draw something I have to ask questions, which is a part of observing and imagination.
“Imagination is asking questions,” she added. “I didn’t know how to draw a picture of a wolf on fire but after asking questions and thinking about it I was able to draw the illustration of the character for the book.”
It is the imagination of a person that Huliska-Beith said opens up the world of possibility.
“I tell all children to draw, draw, draw,” Huliska-Beith commented. “And read, read, read; both of those things support imagination.
“As parents I think it is important to let children have the time to write and draw and read,” she added. “And then keep your children’s work; years from now when they are older it will have a great deal of meaning for them.”
Huliska-Beith added that she was thankful to Parkview for being advocates of the arts and books and reading.
“I think it is so important for parents and schools both to be advocates for a child’s imagination,” Huliska-Beith said. “Creativity at times falls by the wayside but it is vitally important in the development of a child.”
Sparks agreed and added that the staff at Parkview was grateful for the support of the school district and the school’s PTA.
“We haven’t been able to have an author come and speak to the students for the past few years and so we are very grateful to the PTA for paying for this program,” Sparks said. “I think after each presentation that Laura made today she gave the students a sense of hope that anything is possible, especially if they use their minds and explore their imaginations.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1848