a mona lisa smirk with a tattoo

Art history rocks. I wish I knew that in college. My Ancient Art to Pre-Renaissance class was an epic fail. The following semester I earned an A in Renaissance to Modern Art. Why? I stayed awake by color-coding index cards and strapping an IV of Diet Coke to my arm during the slide shows. College is definitely wasted on the young.

I rediscovered my love of art history through coloring books. Sometimes, I have to drag my daughters away from their computer monitors to discover a paper world out there. One frustrated afternoon I grabbed the markers, pencils and Spongebob Squarepants coloring books and used techniques I learned in art class. The girls humored me for a while then asked to go on Webkinz.com. I lingered, cross-hatching Spongebob a nice shade of ochre alone.

So I took a trip to Barnes & Noble and found a plethora of coloring books for grown-ups; books with geometric patterns, Amish quilts, Victorian houses and art masterpieces. The masterpiece book states the history of each painting, and a drawing to color the masterpiece my way. I gave the Mona Lisa purple hair, goth make-up and a tattoo. I learned how to pronounce French names the right way. I pondered why there are so many naked women painted by the masters but hardly any naked men.

I propose a new teaching method for budding art students who’d rather text in the dark than watch slide shows: hand out coloring books. Let them pencil, mark or crayon their take on the masters. And draw a few naked guys once in a while to even out the score.

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