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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Art and Other Messes

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is art.  I don't really know how else to put it, though the phrase "do art" doesn't really make me happy.  I guess I could say "create art" or "make art" but that implies an activeness on my part that is very much absent when we have our little art sessions.  Not because I don't want to participate.  Sometimes I have to restrain myself from becoming more actively involved.  Instead I try to provide interesting materials and mediums and let them do the creating.  This process is always different, always interesting, and always extremely, extremely messy.

Today's art lesson, such as it was, was no different.  It started with an idea I saw on Pinterest that I liked and thought would work well for my twos class at preschool.  My kids are testers for all art and sensory projects, even though they are a bit older than my demographic.  For one thing, they prepare me in advance for the fact that, whatever the thing looks like on Pinterest, the result is probably not going to be the same if toddlers or preschoolers are given free reign.  For another, they always have a whole lot of fun and that makes me happy.

So today's project, initially, was relief painting with tape.  I masking-taped the first letters of their names on a piece of paper and had them paint the paper around it.  Tomorrow, when everything is dry, I'll take the tape off and see if it looks cool or if I should relegate it to the "fun at home, not so much for school" list.  My kids had a blast splashing paint on the page and rubbing it over the taped letters.  After they were done with that I provided more paper so that they could paint at will.  Baby Girl covered a page with green and began drawing designs.  Baby Boy did what he almost always does... mixing colors together until everything is a really strange purply-grey-brown blob.

Here is where my restraint comes in.  He loves to mix colors and he loves to use a lot of paint while experimenting.  Like, a lot of paint.  He would go through gallons if it was available to him and he would take all of the lovely bright hues and, by process of experimentation, produce gallons of purply-grey-brown.  With all of it.  I grew up in a household where mixing play-doh colors was punishable by death.  Okay, not really, but you get the point.  Watching him swirl and swirl and swirl until we go way past pretty is hard for me.

But I am a woman of strong resolve and I am resolved to let my children be free.  To let them explore their world within safe parameters and to suspend judgement when possible.  As I bit my tongue to prevent myself from saying something to the effect of "that's really probably enough," I repeated to myself the mantra, "He's exploring the medium.  He's exploring the medium."  And he was.  Baby Boy was learning and doing so in a way that made him spontaneously erupt in a fit of joyful giggles.  I was immediately glad I had not "corrected" him and had let him create in the way he wanted to create.

Once the paintings were all done and the little Picassos deposited in the bathtub, I cleaned up the mess and then took a look at the drying masterpieces.  They are beautiful.  There is no doubt whose is whose; Baby Girl's deliberate swirls and twirls are a totally different style than her big brother's excessive Jackson Pollack-esque works.  But one of his in particular is pretty fantastic.  It is purply-grey-red with a big swipe of red (squeezed straight from the bottle) down the center and another of yellow in the corner and it's... beautiful.  I would take a picture of it to post but I'm a terrible photographer and would not do it justice.  Not that I'm about to show it to a gallery or anything.  It's just interesting to me that the moment that my "grown up" brain was shouting in alarm, "Too much paint!!", my child was creating something really striking and... well... beautiful.

Pablo Picasso said, "All children are artists.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."  I don't pretend to have the answer to that problem, but I'm going to do my best to protect my little artists' hearts and spirits, to let them be them and not have to be anything else.  It's not always my first inclination.  Baby Girl loves to take pieces of construction paper and a pair of safety scissors and cut the paper into tiny little slivers and squares, triangles and squiggly spirals.  My "grown up" brain screams "Messy!" (and it is) and "Wasteful!" (which, really, it isn't) but I've never complained.  Consequently, the girl has mad scissor skills that were remarked upon by her preschool teachers.  I breathe and decide I'm doing something right.

At the risk of making this blog post too quote-heavy...  As I was looking at Baby Boy's artwork, I was reminded of a quote from Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions (which is nothing short of brilliant if you've never read it) which says, in part, "Let others bring order to chaos.  I would bring chaos to order."  Not that I'm an anarchist or anything, but I do believe this world is chaotic.  There is nothing we can do about it and probably nothing we should do about it.  The chaos is a big part of why it is so beautiful.  The less we try to control it, the happier we will be.  

God tells us the kingdom belongs to children and children don't follow the rules.  They don't try to impose order when chaos will do.  These perfect little artists don't know well enough to have "grown up" brains yet and it suits them just fine.  So I'm going to continue to tell my brain to hush when it's being a spoil sport and let my children inspire me.  Let's get messy.

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