Friday, September 02, 2005

Crayon Wisdom

I’ve been wondering about crayons since I learned my colors. . . .

I grew up surrounded by guys and guy things. The neighborhood where I grew up was all boys. Each of my brothers got a brother and a sister, but I only got two brothers, and they were years older than me. Our big backyard was for baseball and the river for fishing near the white oak tree. I was best friends with the boy across the street, except once in a while when he tried to punch me. Dance class did what it could to preserve the little girl, but I didn’t have much use for dolls.

Crayons were an entirely different matter. Crayons were more than something special. I learned from crayons, a kind of crayon wisdom. They were my friends and personal trainers.They taught me to exercise my mind and to observe my own behavior. I couldn’t possibly be bored with crayons around. Crayons stretched my imagination. They could be so many things. I could go days without paper, and not notice that it was missing.

Each crayon was different from every other, yet they looked so the same at first—almost scary-new right out of the box. That sameness changed and they were never identical once I touched them, and they became personal once they touched me. Ah the agony of deciding what to draw, which color to choose, how to use them evenly. Fairness and elegance called me to employ them carefully. It was important to consider their relationship as a group. No crayon should be left out, alone, not part of the picture.

The box. The box held no magic for me. It didn’t matter what company made it. It doesn’t take long for a kid to figure out that the most beautiful crayons can come in the dullest packages. The box got set aside quickly, so that the crayons could come out to play with me. Which is how such things should be handled. No crayon wants to sit inside of a box waiting its turn to make magic.

Draw for a while with the same crayons, and you form a relationship. You learn things about them. They change in your hands. You get to know how each crayon feels, which is inclined toward broad generous strokes and which only gives tight stingy lines. You see the meek shades that have less presence on the page than you expected. Some crayons are just downright flaky. Others are drying out and breaking with age.

People at crayon factories put names on their wrappers. Spend enough time with crayons, and you’ll find that those names don’t really matter. You’ll be giving them nicknames to match their personalities. Some crayons work well with others and some even blend right in. Some crayons only do well on their own. Certain crayons are even inspiring.

Crayons remind me of people.

Though I’m not convinced that people have as much fun as crayons.

I wonder if we could arrange a way to get everyone their own crayons?

—me strauss Letting me be
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Some links to become more crayon-friendly:
What's Your Favorite Color?
From the History Channel
From HGTV

21 comments:

mojo shivers said...

Crayons are awesome inventions. I remember making mazes in third grade in all shades and just having fun completing other people's mazes.

Cheryl said...

I had to remember being very young, to appreciate this post, so thank you for that.
I remember those useless weak crayons so clearly now - horrible, they left nothing but a smear of barely tinted candlewax, when they looked so bright before you started. And they smelt different. And the paper wrapper didnt tear so satisfyingly, and they were brittle and snapped too easily. Oh, and I think they were Chinese and generally out of mini packs of four, from a Christmas cracker. Very disappointing.
Did you ever work so hard with a colour that you got it ingrained in your thumb and index finger?

ME Strauss said...

mojo shivers,
Thank your for lovely comments. If's so exciting whe I get to see someone recconect to a positive memory of their childhood.
Come by again sometime.

smiles,
Liz

ME Strauss said...

Ah Cheryl,
You were a child of a deprived childhood. Those are the crayons they give little kids in restaurants these days. I've run itno those.Yeah.
Most of had our experience with Crayolas which only occasionally turned your finger blue. :))
smiles,
Liz

Cheryl said...

Nooo!
I had the good ones too.
The chunky giant ones at school were also very good, but seemed to mark hands. I just remember the cheap ones because christening a new crayon is usually a joy - unless it happens to be one of those rubbish smelly ones!
The best sight at Sunday school was the biscuit tin full of crayons, so many to choose from.
I got also lakeland colour pencils in a flat tin that held their smell - so special.

ME Strauss said...

Gotcha! My sincere apologies. Another friend just emailed me that she had a similar problem. I'm thinking that it must be your magnetic personalities. The crayons, just couldn't bear to tear themselves away from you. :)


I can't relate to the scent of crayons--I'm what they call "smell-blind." I didn't even know they had a smell. Cool.

melly said...

As someone with extreme challenges when it comes to any kind of drawing, I never developped the same affinity to crayons. But as an adult who was able to make more than a few kids happy with them, I think I can see the attraction. And it doesn't matter if they're Bob-the-Builder, Crayola, or whatever crayons. The kids actually seem to prefer to keep their crayons in a flat cookie jar and rummage through them to find the right one and get their fingers all dirty because of the mix of different crayons and chalk and whatever else is in there.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Melly,
You've got it! It's like seeing a towel display. They only look that good because there are all of the colors together.

Great to see you. Thanks for stopping by.
me-Liz

Tanda said...

What a very colorful article!

Although I loved bringing drawings to life with crayons, I loved even more creating the images with my trusty pencil and large pink eraser.

Today I buy crayons in bulk because my kids break them, eat them, or lose them. I do love the smell. The only thing I don't like to see crayons do is decorate my walls. Could do without that...lol.

ME Strauss said...

Hey Tanda,
If you go to the link for Crayola below, you'll find they now offer erasable crayons. Don't know how htey smell though. Goos to see you.

smiles,
Liz

kajira said...

I have a favorite crayon color. It's Burnt Sienna. I don't know why it's my favorite crayon color, because it's not too prevalent in my life. If I'm asked my favorite color, I say "purple." But in crayons? Burnt Sienna is da bomb!

ME Strauss said...

Kajira,
Thanks for becoming part of our crayon discussion. It's turning out to be a fun one.

I'm not sure why that is. I know I like certain crayon colors that I don't like in real life. I also think that Burnt Sienna is much better behaved hand any of the purples and a much better listener. Maybe you identify with the purples, but you'd rather have a Burnt Sienna friend?? :))))

smiles,
Liz

Bluesky_Liz said...

The smell of crayons always bring me back to the days when I was back in kindergarten. I think it's a certain brand that has this strong smell. We had those big stick kind that was put on the drawing table for everyone to share. I think there were only 6 colors. Occassionally, someone would have their own set with more exciting shades, but they usually very protective over them. Those were the days of not caring about coloring out of line or what color grass should be.

dog1net said...

When I think of crayons I begin remembering days when I would sit at the kitchen table coloring on huge sheets of butcher paper that my mother would get for me. My son and daughter loved crayons. With my son, a box of crayons would easily keep him preoccupied for hours on end. I enjoy your writing, and the fresh perspective you bring to timeless topics.
Scot

ME Strauss said...

Scot,
Thank you for telling me your story. It's such fun to get a little glimpse of everyone's childhood.

At the bottom of the page I have a sentence that says "Daily Philosophy for Sorting Random Access Memories." I had no idea that it would be such a rich experience.

Thank you again.

smiles,
Liz

abeer said...

I love this post. You bring out the finer nuances of using a crayon beyond what I could have expected anyone to do. Even with my severly limited experience (I was never much into art) with crayons, I can so readily identify with what you have written. Keep it up! ;)

ME Strauss said...

Thank you, Abeer,
I'm delighted and surprised by how well received this post has been. I'm so happy that you enjoyed it.

I think everyone should get a box of crayons. I like writing about such things. If you have ideas, be sure to email me.
smiles,
Liz

Tanda said...

Oooooohhhh...erasable crayons!!!! Neat-o!! Didn't know they made those now. Thanks!

Ned said...

I had two brothers, one younger and one older. I know the baseball and the boy games, and trying to keep up with my older brother.

The same was true of coloring with crayons. The older brother always produced much more artistic-looking papers and so I emulated even his skill with crayons.

I still love a new box of crayons and some good sturdy drawing paper.

ME Strauss said...

Ned,
Good to see you up and around again. Nice to hear your crayon memories.

It's nice to know we share brothers, crayons and poetry.

smiles,
Liz

ME Strauss said...

Yes Tanda,
Follow the link. Erasable crayons--just for you!!