Monday, March 5, 2012

An Interview with MaryAnn F. Kohl, Children's Art Book author and a GIVEAWAY for Storybook Art

***Giveaway winner has been selected!
 Today I have 2 exciting things going on at The Chocolate Muffin Tree:

An Interview with MaryAnn F. Kohl, children's art book author
A Giveaway for:  Storybook Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl

If you don't know who MaryAnn Kohl is she is an author of many children's art books including: Mudworks, Scribble Art, First Art,  and more.  I first came across the book Mudworks when I was studying to be an Art teacher.  It was an invaluable resource for all different recipes for sculptural doughs and more.  I remember back then wanting to try out all the recipes just for FUN (my kind of fun!)   I collected many of MaryAnns' books including Scribble Art (My favorite book by MaryAnn!) along the way.  I remember always wishing I could be like MaryAnn and hoping to one day write an Art Book for children. So now that I am interviewing her,  it is quite an honor because I view her as almost like a celebrity in my world! I've also included a few questions from my readers that were posted on Facebook. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comment section below and I'm sure MaryAnn will gladly answer them!

MaryAnn doing what she does best!
On with the interview:

MELISSA: What did you love most as a child and do you still love it?

MARYANN: As a child, I most loved playing in the woods for hours on end, no parents around, building forts, "cooking" and using leaves to make pretend food, finding bits of trash for dishes, raking leaves to make paths, and generally, just being lost in the woods and my imagination. I would wake up on Saturday morning and bolt out the door headed to the woods. My house was about five houses over from my woods of choice. If my mom called me, I could hear her and would scoot home in no time. When I wasn't in the woods, I loved coloring, reading my books, playing with my dolls, or riding my bike. Do I still love any of these things? I love them all! ( I don't play with my dolls anymore, but if I still had them, I might change their outfits and fix their hair. Is that playing?) And I have to add that I loved snow. I still love snow and ski every week during the winter. I love winter the most of any season.

MaryAnn at age 3 swinging on a rope over Puget Sound at her
grandmother's magical house on Bainbridge Island, Washington
MELISSA: How did you get interested in Kid's art and creating books about "Making Art With children"?

MARYANN:  First, as a child I loved my crayons and pastel chalks and drawing freely daily on my huge pad of paper. We didn't have much art in school, but simple art was a big part of my childhood when out of the classroom. When I began teaching school, I found that kids were always quiet and on task and deeply involved when they were doing art, and so I began tying art to all kinds of learning including math and science. I never had one single child in any of my classrooms who did not respond to some kind of art in a positive way. Art was like the magic key to inspiring children to learn on many levels. When I began raising my babies, I had time to think about writing books (we didn't have blogs yet!), and I became drawn to writing a book to share easy process art ideas for others. Process art was a new concept in 1985 when I wrote "Scribble Art". I just had this feeling that a book about letting kids make art their own way, and not copying what an adult had made, was important. I have been so pleased to follow my passion about art for kids.

MELISSA: Who or what was your inspiration?

MARYANN:  Looking back at my life,  I can see that I was definitely and heavily inspired by my immediate family and their influence on how important creativity is:  My dad owned a book bindery and honestly could have been a cartoonist,  my mom was an oil painter and played piano daily,  my grandma was a published author and organist,  my aunt was an opera singer with the Los Angeles Opera Company,  and my grandpa owned bookstores across the country.  Sadly,  none of them lived to see what I accomplished,  but I have to believe that they know.

I have to thank my mom for not scolding me when I colored on the wall at the age of three.  I completely covered the wall above my bed with swirls of crayons using two arms at once,  hands filled with crayons.  When she discovered my activity,  after taking in a huge breath  (I remember her reaction), she calmly explained that I should draw on paper instead of my wall.  She even bought me a pad of newsprint.  The part of this experience that mattered most to me is that she left that marvelous creation above my bed for many years.  Oh, how the colors swirled!

MaryAnn with her Mom, Betty Faubion,
at a beach in Bainbridge Island, Washington
MELISSA: What is your favorite book that you have written and why?

MARYANN: I still love "Scribble Art" the most. Every project in the book is easy, basic, exploratory, and completely open-ended in possibilities and works for all ages. And all the projects are ones I used during my years teaching kindergarten through grade two, so I am deeply attached to the book as a walk down memory lane.

MELISSA:  What book of yours has sold the best or had the most influence on others?

MARYANN:  Discovering Great Artists is my best seller, and I believe has had the most influence on children's art lives: hundreds of thousands of children!! Just imagine each individual child who now knows Matisse and van Gogh and Monet, and who has created art inspired by these masters! It makes my heart beat faster to try to imagine those real individual children and how the book has made an impact on their lives.

MELISSA:  What other books or type of book do you hope to write in the future?

MARYANN:  I hope to write a book for kids in upper elementary grades about a little girl growing up in the 1950s. Based on the life of "guess who"? I have some really funny experiences to relate and I can't wait to get started.

MELISSA:  What are your Top 5  favorite process based art projects?

MARYANN:  My favorites change from day to day, so this is a tough question. But for today, here are my top 5, and I'm going to list them in very VERY general terms so the possibilities are wide open. each of these five has a book-full of possibilities:
1. exploring with playdough
* today's favorite: mixing blobs of colored playdough to make new colors
2. collage with whatever is on hand
* today's favorite: art tissue scraps painted onto paper with thinned white glue; add other supplies like glitter or beads
3. wood scrap sculpture
* today's favorite: stack and glue pieces of wood scraps into towers or flat reliefs; paint optional
4. painting with liquid watercolors or tempera paints
* today's favorite: draw and color with crayons on white paper and then spray liquid watercolor on the drawing
5. making prints with whatever is on hand
* today's favorite: roll marbles through paint blobs on a paper plate in a pie pan.

MaryAnn exploring with play dough

Questions from my readers:

Who is your favorite Artist?

MARYANN:  Matisse. Definitely Henri Matisse. Always Matisse. Of course I love his art, especially his paper cutouts. But it's more. When I look at him in photographs, I feel like I know him. Wishful thinking perhaps, but there's a connection I can't explain.

What is your favorite book on inspiring creativity?

MARYANN:  Rhoda Kellogg's The Psychology of Children's Art was my first foray into seeing children's art as more than just basic little crayon drawings or tempera paintings. I knew nothing and this book opened my eyes! The book surprised and inspired me. I couldn't stop looking at the children's paintings in this book and thinking about children's art in a new way. The book changed my view of children's art and started me in a new direction of seeing its value on a deeper level, as more than play. I suddenly saw art as important to a child's development and expression as a human being.

What art activities would you suggest for a 3 year old that doesn't like to get messy? And eats play dough/clay rather than playing with it?

MARYANN:  Some very young children need active creative play more than they need art. Does that make sense? They need to play with blocks, ride little toys, run in circles, and jump over things. They need to arrange their dolls or spend time with their books. Creativity takes many forms, and messy art is only one of them; these things can take time. Many three year olds are going through potty training and research shows that children in this stage often avoid anything messy like paint or playdough, things that make their hand messy especially. So it may be a stage, or it may be this particular child's natural personality. Either way, it's a good idea to do art that has some 3-D sculpture to it, like arranging scraps of wood together on the table, or building an abstract large sculpture with rolls of newspaper and tape - joining the rolls together in any way. Don't be surprised that the reluctant three year old becomes the exuberant four year old! A little more advice: Keep basic art supplies freely available at his level to use and explore at will.  

MELISSA: Any other information you would like to add or share with my readers?

MARYANN:  My advice is about being easy on yourself as the parent. With all the fabulous ideas on blogs today, and all the books of art ideas, and all the amazing supplies you can buy, I know it can be overwhelming to know what to do or feel like you are accomplished enough to do it. It's important to know that if you never did anything but let your kids draw with crayons and mess around with cardboard boxes, you would have succeeded! Honestly, nothing much more is needed because it isn't really the activities you give your child, but your own attitude about the importance of imagination that inspires a child to be a thinker and a creator. The child's own imagination is the key to it all. If you allow for imagination, you have allowed for creativity to blossom and grow and form a human being whose mind is going to expand to hold the world. So go easy on yourself and enjoy whatever you bring to your child's world because any and all of it is a plus.  

MELISSA: Thank you so much for the interview.  It has been a honor.  I know my readers will appreciate learning all about you!

More Information about MaryAnn F. Kohl:

MaryAnn's blog: MaryAnn F. Kohl, process art and treasures of childhood
MaryAnn's Website: Bright Ring Publishing and Free Art Activities from her books
MaryAnn's Bright Ring Facebook page: Bright Ring Publishing
You can purchase all her books through here

now for the...GIVEAWAY 

MaryAnn has donated a signed copy of Storybook Art to give away to one lucky reader! We were fortunate to receive a copy too. From the book, we enjoyed creating Balloon Sculptures (the post you can check out here) and Pasta Sculptures (the post is here) along with the books that go along with these projects. This book is a great resource for teachers, parents, and caregivers who want to incorporate Literature along with their Art Activities.  For your chance to win a copy leave a comment below by March 12, 2012, 10pm EST.  Winner will be notified by email.


What is your Favorite MaryAnn F. Kohl book?


  1. I would love to win this book! I already have 2 books of MaryAnn Kohl that I use all the time!
    I hope it's open world wide.

  2. I would love to win this book! I've used some of her other books and my kids have so much fun!

  3. I'd love to win the book! I met her at a NAEYC conference and so admire her work. Storybook art is among the books of hers I do not have.

  4. What a great site! Have added you to my reading list :)
    I'd love to win this book if it's open world wide too. I've not seen an of MaryAnn Kohl books so it would be great to get the chance ^_^

  5. Wow! I would love to get the book. The pasta and Balloon sculptures are fun!

  6. i homeschool and am always looking for great ideas for art projects!! would love to win this!

  7. We'd love this book! We already have 2 other MaryAnn Kohl books which we love for new art projects.

  8. Please enter me in the drawing, as a Waldorf-based homeschooling family I am always looking for new art activities.

  9. Hi, Everyone! I just toddled into my office with my first cup of tea, and found the interview with Melissa, who by the way is a delight, and was so pleased to read your comments about art and books. I would like to invite all of you to subscribe to my monthly newsletter and mailing list (the newsletter is short, but filled with art ideas). Go to my website, lower right corner, and sign up! You can always unsubscribe at any time of course. You will receive the ArtsyKidsNEWS each month and a special notification now and then, though that has yet to happen. Go to I look forward to reading all the comments that come in and sending the Storybook Art book to the winner!
    ~ MaryAnn

    1. Thank you for the follow up! I subscribed to your newsletter and can't wait to read my first issue.


  10. Looks like a super fun book.

  11. Carmen Van DeursenMarch 5, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    I have borrowed The Big Messy Art Book from the library and it is the best art book ever. My son loves to be messy so it was very muched used. Would love to win Storybook Art.

  12. I'd love this book - I have one dog-earred copy of First Art for Toddlers and twos and currently am exploring a borrowed copy of Scribble Art.

  13. I like to read a story first when I go and volunteer in the preschool of my son. A story related to the art we will make :-) I didn't know there was a book like that. I'm definitely going to check out the MaryAnn Kohl books in the library! Thanks for the chance of winning.

  14. Guess what...our library just owns 1 book written by MaryAnn: Mudworks, that's it!
    That explains why there was no bell ringing when I read your post.

  15. I love First Art! My 3 year old and I have spent hours exploring the book. We would love Storybook Art. (not gmail)

  16. The Storybook art is one on my wish list. I recently purchased great american artists to go along with our geography and love her books.

  17. Melissa,
    This is such an interesting interview!
    I plan to look for Mary Ann's books at the library.
    At the center where I work, we have created an "Art Room", and I am needing lots of good ideas and inspiration, to help me provide challenging, quality art experiences.
    I like what Mary Ann has said here about children who may not like play dough - and that there are many other ways of being creative such as block construction, and imaginative play.
    I enjoyed reading this post here today, and of course always enjoy reading here for inspiration. :)

  18. Great interview! I would LOVE to get some new ideas.

  19. What an interesting interview!

    I would LOVE to win. My 6 year old is VERY creative and loves creating art, and I would love some more direction to give him(about projects-because I am not as naturally gifted as he is!)

  20. I would love to win this book. Me and my son Little Red love making things together. I have CFS so i struggle doing active things with him. Making things is the one thing I can do :-)

  21. I use many of MaryAnn's books in my preschool classroom. She has so many great ideas for developing each child's individual expression. I particularly enjoy Preschool Art, Science Arts and the more recent Art With Anything. I highly recommend them!

  22. i love the book SCRIBBLES! <3 I love teaching art and I love teaching children! A new resource would be sensational!

  23. I would love to win! My girls would have so much fun with new projects.
    hbrooke_ski @ hotmail . com

  24. I would love to win the book...I love books and I love art...and have a seven year old who is much the same.

  25. I think this book will become my favorite!

    kaos2me at gmail dot com

  26. I have a copy of First Art and I love love love it! It gives me so much inspiration and motivation to set up an art rich environment for my toddler! I really like the idea of meshing together literature and art. I teach preschool by profession so I'm sure a copy of Storybook Art would be well loved by me and my children/students!

  27. Thank you for the great interview and a chance to win such an amazing book. I am just about to begin teaching a class of new early childhood students a course on PLAY... I love my life. I will be sharing with them my favourite books, people, and blogs... this just hit on ALL THREE!! Kim

  28. this is so exciting - I have a mini MaryAnn Kohl library - I'm a PK-6(th grade) teacher, who had found my way into early childhood by way of my own young children. I much prefer art over craft (for kids) and an really excited to see this new book!! thanks for the giveaway, Emma

  29. Lovely! THanks for the chance.

    lovelydomesticdiva (at) gmail (dot) com

  30. What a wonderful interview!! I have to admit that I'm just now learning about MaryAnn. Her books look awesome and I've subscribed to her site. I look forward to receiving her first newsletter and would love to win the giveaway.

  31. Great interview. I too am just learning who MaryAnn is, but can't wait to explore her books. Seems like she has some great ideas. Between Pinterest and exploring blogs I come up with so many ideas to try with my daughter who is 3. I couldn't imagine not doing art with her. So I know this book would be a huge hit with me and her. Thanks for the giveaway.

  32. A big thank you for including my question about 3 year olds and messy play! So informative! Particularly the comment about potty training. I have noticed that she doesn't mind getting her feet messy but hates her fingers getting squelchy. The other day we walked in mud and sand together, making footprints and exploring texture together, which she absolutely loved.
    Also really appreciate the suggestion about 3D sculpture. Thank you both again!!

  33. We have Scribble Art and would love to win this one. Thanks!

  34. Would love to have this for my library kids!

  35. How nice it would be to have my own copy of the book ... I've borrowed from the Library!

  36. What a fun treasure this is! Thanks for the great interview!

  37. I recently got First Art and we love it! I'd love to win Sorybook Art

  38. great interview! I would love to win this 4 year old granddaughter always looks forward to doing art projects with me when she is at my house - building great memories & spending quality time together!

  39. I would love to win this book. I work with many children with special needs, due to drug abuse and neglect, and am always looking for new, creative ideas. This book would be a Godsend. Thanks for the giveaway! Good luck to everyone!

  40. I LOVE MaryAnn Kohl and her books!

  41. I have been a MaryAnn Kohl fan since I bought Scribble Cookies in 1985, to begin enjoying creative moments with my two year old. I have used her many wonderful books for inspiration as a teacher, a mom, and now a grandma!

  42. I have many of Ms. Kohl's books and would love to add this one to our collection. Thank your for such a wonderful giveaway and a delightful interview!

  43. I work with in special education with preschoolers, as well as teach an afterschool group of 24 kindergartners. I am always looking for new creative fun craft ideas to keep the m busy.

  44. I LOVE MaryAnn's books! She is an amazing teacher. :)

  45. What a great interview. I have one book of hers, but would love to win another!