Building Confidence through Creative Writing and Illustration

Let me introduce our next guest author, Ross Boone! Ross, of Raw Spoon, is passionate about writing and illustrating books (and he's really good at it!). We brought him to Camp Horizon, an organization that empowers youth in foster care who have experienced abuse and neglect. Camp Horizon does this by building consistent relationships with the kids over many years. We're honored to be a part of their program! I'll let Ross take it from here!

 Building Confidence through Creative Writing and Illustration, Camp Horizon and Ross Boone

No matter how hard you plan, with a new group of kids, I’ve found it’s always best to be ready to fly by the seat of your pants.

Paint Love asked me to share my skills and experience in writing and illustrating books with the teens from Camp Horizon. This year, they brought the teens to Camp Twin Lakes and spent the weekend learning about leadership types through fun crafts, group discussion, and games in the gym—the stuff of a good camping memories.

 Building Confidence through Creative Writing and Illustration, Camp Horizon and Ross Boone

In the weeks prior, I had teamed up with Aimée from Paint Love. We spent hours meeting, planning, scheduling, making tutorials, and trying to define different types of leaders. On the day of the event, we met up with Lea from Camp Horizon.

Lea led us into a yurt with the words “Arts and Crafts” on the side. We dragged in our bags of supplies, moved tables into circles, propped up a dry erase board, set up the scanner, and realized how crazy it was to try to get these kids to make a book in an hour and a half.

We were gonna be way crunched for time.

The kids poured in—all ages, sizes, colors, and energy levels. How were we going to meet them all on common ground? Luckily, behind them, an army of volunteers poured in. Camp Horizon likes to match every student with a leader and they were there to help us.

As Aimée set up the scanner, I corralled the students and got them seated and quiet. Looking around, I realized that attention spans were going to be short. We would need to be interactive. So instead of telling them my story about a leader, I asked them for theirs.

 Ross Boone teaching illustration at the Paint Love event at Camp Horizon 

Once they had a good working reference for leadership, I truncated my lesson to a few tips on drawing human figures and some simple storytelling techniques. I summed it up like this: “A story is a character that overcomes an obstacle. Now, make a story about a leader and draw a picture of them looking like a superhero!”

A couple studious girls got right to the task and made quick progress. They wrote stories about overcoming the fear of learning to swim and about Superwoman saving people from a burning building.

A group of boys on the other side of the room were laughing and teasing as much as they were writing and drawing. They wrote stories about “Hatman,” whose struggle was to find a pair of shoes to match his hat, and about the violent reign of “Kingfly.”

Several of them got stuck with feeling that they either didn’t know how to draw or didn’t know what to write. So we gave them mini-lessons and helped with brainstorming along the way.

I remember one young man, in particular. Forty-five minutes into the project, his paper was still completely blank. I tried to help him brainstorm by asking him what he was passionate about, but he replied, “I just can’t draw and I just can’t think of anything to write. I just can’t do this.”

I pressed in, asking him what he did at home or what he was hoping to do in the future. He just shrugged his shoulders and hunched over his paper even more, looking defeated.

There was a long awkward pause, as I tried to think of what on earth I could say to encourage him. Finally, he said: “I won’t need to write or draw anything when I go into the army.”

“Oh! You’re going into the military?! Cool. Tell me about that.”

He seemed to open up. He told me about what base he wanted to be stationed at and what he would be doing there. Something about that seemed to turn the tables.

 Ross Boone teaching creative writing to the youth at Camp Horizon

I got pulled away to help someone else with a drawing and when I came back to him, he was writing furiously. I stopped, kept silent, and slowly backed away. He had filled up nearly half a page of tiny writing in only a few minutes.

When I went back to check on him near the end of the exercise, he showed me his story, which now filled the whole page. It was about a mouse going up a huge staircase. The mouse struggled with the big steps but eventually learned to conquer them and taught others how to do the same.

“It’s a deep metaphor. Lots of layers of symbolism and meaning,” he said.

He asked how to draw stairs, so I showed him some techniques. By the end of the project he had finished not only a complete story but also an awesome, expansive staircase winding up the other side of the paper.

The project with Camp Horizon was a blast for me. The kids walked away having completed pages for a book of their own stories and pictures that we compiled into an ebook for them. I was extremely blessed to see these kids making stories and drawings out of nothing.

Hopefully, they were able to see little bits of heroism in their own lives, too.
Thank you, Paint Love!

Thank you, Ross! We're always so impressed by how much time and energy our artists give towards Paint Love projects. We're beyond grateful! SRSLY #Blessed. This is such an amazing story of impact!