Mo Willems: Getting Adults To Draw (From NPR's All Things Considered, May 5, 2009)
Somewhere along the way, we all were artists. Everyone picks up crayons or chalk as toddlers, but at some point, we just stop drawing. Radio cartoonist and children's author Mo Willems says that's a pity.
Willems is obsessed with why adults don't draw — and he wants to do something about it.
"One of the interesting things about cartooning and doodling and drawing," Willems tells Michele Norris, "is that people stop when they decide they're not good at it. Nobody stops playing basketball when they realize they're not going to become a professional. The same thing should apply to cartooning."
Willems says just sitting and drawing a character brings out empathy in people, and that's something the world could use more of right now.
One of the biggest reasons children stop drawing is that they see that adults don't do it, Willems says. When he goes into classrooms, he says, teachers often ask him to get the kids to draw. But when he does, many of the teachers don't participate.
"Well, now the kids realize that this is just a baby activity," he says.
He reminds us that parents are actually cool in kids' eyes — for a while — and kids want to imitate what they do.
"If your kid comes home from school and you say, 'I'll be right with you; I'm just finishing a doodle,' the kid's going to go, 'Dude, I want to do that, too!' "
He suggests doing what his family does: have a family draw. His family gets a large piece of paper, picks a theme and then everybody draws. They went so far as to paint a wall with chalkboard paint.
To get adults started, Willems instructs Norris — and the audience — to draw a favorite character from childhood. See Willems' blog for more.