Over the weekend, we found ourselves with an unexpected, completely plan-free day. A whole day!! Our weeks and weekends are usually pretty busy, and full of great things we want to do such as various lessons, kids parties, social get-togethers, etc. As much as these are all things we enjoy and choose to do and refuse to tear ourselves away from, it’s busy all the time. I’m sure you know what I mean. Anyway, this one gorgeous sunny Sunday was suddenly free. Totally free. So we cruised. Not the party-boat type of cruise, more the swanning about doing whatever we fancied for the entire day type of cruise. It was delicious.
Somewhere in the middle of the day (clocks schmocks on such a day), I cosied up with some new alcohol markers for a little experimentation. Every new art material purchase is closely followed by some serious experimentation sessions. What can they do, what can’t they do, how do they compare to other similar things I have, how do they combine with other materials I have, all this multiplied by several surfaces (various papers, board, canvas, etc). The reason for this is pretty much just to find out if I need to go buy MORE, or if they are destined for art material exile – also known as the kids craft box.
While experimenting, both my little people came over and marvelled with me at my new purchase and the joy that was making its way onto my page (...yep, safely in the “buy more” category). They asked if they could have turn, and (although it wasn’t my first instinct) I said “Sure”. They didn’t want their own page, and they didn’t want to draw a picture. They wanted to do exactly what I was doing, which was fairly unexciting, precise and controlled shading and blending exercises. So they did, and they were fascinated. I could go on and on here about what a beautiful session we spent; mother and daughters learning, discovering and laughing together; me gazing at their sweet little hands, and seeing into their souls.... but I won’t.
The point is that I started thinking about the way we approach the teaching and learning of art to children. Our culture tends to sit on the side of the fence which says that artistic ability is a special gift bestowed at conception that you either have or you don’t, and those who don’t need not bother. I sit on the other side of the fence which says we all have artistic potential which can be developed. Those who enjoy it practise frequently over many years and become pretty good as a result. (What and how we determine work to be “pretty good” – that’s a whole seperate blog!) Lots of people don’t enjoy it, so spend no time practising and don’t develop proficiency in that area and are completely happy that way. But there’s an enormous crowd of people in between though, who wish they could draw, love and appreciate art or fantasise about one day taking up painting or sculpture etc. They don’t do it because “they are no good at it” or “don’t have a creative bone in the body”. Is there any other pastime, hobby activity in life where it is readily accepted that you wouldn’t take it up because you can’t do it? Won’t take up piano because I can’t play....... won’t cook because once I made something and it was terrible...... Ridiculous right?
There is just so much joy to be gained if you are one of those in between people, and the goal doesn’t need to be international acclaim. Go get yourself some skills!! Learn how your tools work both the actual tools - the papers, the pencils, the pastels, the paints, the clay - and also how to utilise the mental tools. There are lots of places you can learn, without ever needing to show your work to anyone (because that’s the clincher right? Having to show someone your work and inevitably feel their judgement). Online classes, there are loads. Brilliant books such as Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, and The Artists Way by Julia Cameron will open up a whole new world and these are both books I still refer back to regularly. I only know this because I have experienced it. My upbringing was brilliant, but it wasn’t in a creative community where artistic flair was a useful and highly valued attribute. A cute novelty for sure, but certainly not one worth pursuing.
Hanging out on a Sunday afternoon with their Mumma, the girls learned a new skill and that skill will at sometime appear in their own drawings, paintings and for one of them at least, in the elaborate borders she draws around her spelling words! These impromptu skills sessions happen reasonably often around here, just like a footy session with Dad in the backyard. Let’s treat art just a tiny bit more like we treat footy. That your handballs are all over the place is not a reason to write yourself off for life. Yeah, the particularly tall kid might be born with a bit of an advantage but without the practising of skills, forget it.