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The Origins Of My Art Career

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

I recently received this book as a gift.

Book on a white shelf. The book cover has the title Panda Bear's Paintbox and shows a sitting panda holding a paintbrush, and open set of watercolors at it's feet, the panda is covered in splotches of paint.

This is actually the second time in my life I've owned a copy of Panda Bears's Paintbox, the first time I was somewhere around the age of three. My husband tracked a copy down and surprised me with it because I consider this book to be the origin of my life-long desire to be an artist.

I don't know if this was a story I picked out myself, or if it was a gift. How I got the book may be a mystery but the influence it had on me isn't. It left an indelible impression, one that can still be seen in my paintings today.

The story is about a panda bear who creates a self-portrait using a watercolor set. While painting, the panda discovers color mixing and learns how to make all the colors needed to complete the painting.

Closeup of an illustration in the book, the panda is holding a brush and mixing colors.

I loved the story and have vivid memories of asking to have it read to me over and over again. This book is absolutely where I learned to mix colors. At the time, making a new color out of two others seemed like magic. I memorized which colors made what from the story, and performed this alchemy with my own newly acquired watercolor set.

I even tried to recreate this illustration from the book.

An illustration from the book, panda bear painting a self-portrait wearing a red scarf, the panda is painting grass in the self-portrait scene.

The book inspired me to create art and at the tender age of three and turned me into a student of color theory. Today I'm still a student of color theory, and the joy I get from using color has influenced my art every step of the way.

Color seemed magical then, and it still does now. Today is Read Across America Day, so give a child a book because you never know where it might lead them.

Panda Bear's Paintbox was written by Michaela Muntean, illustrated by Christopher Santoro, and published by Goldencraft.

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