Fueling the Creative Flame

Here, Rachael Ray, Bobbi Brown, Tomie dePaola, and other innovators and artists talk to Child about the importance of imagination in childhood.

Andrew Adamson

Director of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as well as Shrek and Shrek 2, Adamson is the father of two children, ages 3-1/2 years and 17 months.

What did your parents do to encourage creativity?

There were many things my parents did-from engaging in self-made games to not devaluing creative endeavors over so-called "practical" endeavors. Even in high school, when I chose to go against my teacher and skip his class to go a talent show rehearsal, my parents supported me in the decision. At some point early in my life, the family decided that I was the artistic one, and from that day forward most of my birthday and Christmas presents were centered on drawing and painting. I'll never know whether I really had a natural aptitude or whether that decision created the skills, but either way it was certainly very supportive of something I enjoyed doing.

Who were the adults in your life who most encouraged your creativity?

I would say that it was my parents. Later in high school I also developed a crush on an art teacher, so that helped! I've been very lucky to be surrounded by people who didn't judge exploring music, drawing, painting, etc. as a waste of time. I never heard from any of my family that I should "get a real job." Sure it's important to learn the alphabet and numbers, but it's just as important to be allowed to scribble things that may mean nothing to anyone but oneself. I also think I was lucky that my parents didn't have enough money to buy us a lot of complicated toys; it meant that we made our own, which in itself developed our creativity.

Which books and other materials inspired you most as a child?

I read a lot of British children's books. The Narnia Chronicles were an important part of my early reading. I loved the idea of other worlds and possibilities. These books also exposed me to a lot of evocative, mythical imagery that occurs in every culture.

If you could share one piece of advice with a child about being creative, what would that be?

All your life you will be facing limitations and boundaries, but don't let them contain you. Let them challenge you to find even more creative ways to do your own thing. Sometimes being an individual can be more difficult than fitting in, particularly when you're young, but if you follow your own path you will discover later how valuable it is to be able to think differently from the crowd. That's a fancy way of saying, "If you want to do something, do it!" Don't let people tell you that you can't or shouldn't.

What do you see as your most creative accomplishment?

It's hard for me to judge my most creative accomplishment because I will always feel that it is yet to come.

Why do you think encouraging creativity is so important, and how has it helped you in your life and career?

Lateral thinking. Understanding of music. Visual imagination. Role-playing. These are all things I draw upon every day. But aside from my job, I feel my daily life would not be complete without some kind of creative pursuit. When I'm not working it's often music. My wife, who is a visual artist, and I know this about each other. If we don't get to exercise our creative muscles we get pretty intolerable. I'm lucky that I get to do it for my job as well.

How do you keep yourself creative?

I don't know how not to. I feel a constant need to try things and improve my skills. I'm not someone who spends hours in front of the TV or video games, though I am comfortable with vegging out at times. I find many of those pursuits to be ultimately dissatisfying because I am unaffected by them; I leave the experience the same as when I entered. When I do something that challenges me creatively I come out the other end feeling differently. Sometimes it can be very frustrating. I may not achieve what I set out to, and that may take me to a dark place of dissatisfaction, but most times it's this dissatisfaction that pushes me to break through the walls and discover things I never knew I could do.

What have you done to encourage your kids' creativity?

I've tried to do many of the things that my parents have done for me. I've spent time with them-time that I enjoy-making things, inventing games and songs, being silly in the name of invention. I play with them in ways that are not too defined and limited but that allow for them to invent. I've also tried to let them see how much I enjoy doing creative things. I play music and let them play with me, even though it's often not harmonious. Sometimes the attempt to make a child do something better can stop it from being fun. My daughters also go and "work" in the studio with their mother, applying themselves just as diligently to their easels. I think it's important for kids to see their parents enjoying their own creative endeavors so that they learn that they are fun as well as rewarding.

What do you think are the ideal toys, games, books, activities, and art supplies for promoting creativity?

I like toys that involve activities I can enjoy with my kids. They can be toys like Lego, where we toss the instructions and make up things, to simple paper and pens, where we'll all contribute to a drawing. Finger paints are freeing; kids can make a mess while exploring color and shape. And more often than not, the most fun thing is a big cardboard box that can be a space ship, a house, a train, or a tent-anything you want it to be.

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