Imagine Super Noah soaring through an asteroid field, donning a majestic blue suit and flapping red cape. He’s on a mission to fight the villain Diamondback (who wears a diamond, obviously, on his chest) and save the world from Diamondback’s evil weapon.
Born in the mind of 9-year-old Noah Cunningham – the namesake, of course, of Super Noah – the characters have come to life with Sharpies and sketch paper this week at the Columbia Museum of Art’s Heroes and Villains cartoon-drawing camp.
“Drawing has always been a fun thing for me,” said Noah, who enjoys sketching with his friends at school and comparing their creations. “I would take real things and try to make them animated. I would go through multiple copies (of a drawing) before I got to the one I wanted.”
At a nearby table, 11-year-old Thoriso Watson carefully angled a plastic ruler to draw the lines of skyscrapers in New York City, where his villain, The Black Death, was featured on the big screen at Times Square.
“It’s just like making a new world,” said Thoriso, noting sketching has always come naturally to him. “I just draw whatever is on my mind.”
Noah and Thoriso are among about 450 children who will hone their creative skills at one of the museum’s 30 art camps this summer. From sketching to sculpting to creating art from recycled materials, campers are exploring their imaginations and developing skills that will transfer to other areas of their lives, said Kerry Kuhlkin-Hornsby, CMA’s director of education.
Art is one of the earliest forms of learning, she said, and is almost universally engaging for children.
“It’s even deeper than making the art itself,” Kuhlkin-Hornsby said. “It’s also a learning process – from an idea coming into your head and how you take that idea and actually make it into something.”
While heroes and villains took shape on paper at the cartooning camp, just across the hall, animals were taking three-dimensional shape in the hands of a trio of sculpting campers.
Lauren Rowe, 13, had been wanting to get her hands on some clay ever since she saw her mother’s photos of sculptures taken during a recent trip to Italy, she said. She takes art classes and enjoys sketching and painting at home while she listens to music or watches television, but this week was her first foray into sculpting.
She joined 14-year-old Lauren Kuperman and 12-year-old Sophie Ngo in learning the art of “pinch pot” making.
Lauren described herself as an “imaginative artist.” With classic rock music playing in the background, she carefully blended coils of soft clay on top of one another to create the hollow body and oversized head of an owl-shaped pinch pot, smoothing the sides of her creation with a metal “rib” tool.
“I don’t like to draw what I’m going to do and then copy it again,” she said. “I like to just use my head.”
What’s difficult, though, can be “trying to get what you have in your head into real life,” she added.
But, luckily, there’s plenty of room for mistakes.
“Clay is a great equalizer,” said Kristina Stafford, CMA’s educational programs coordinator and the instructor for the sculpting camp. “You can make it anything. It forgives you.”