Friday, May 27, 2011

Art therapy

Yesterday morning my daughter came into the office while I was trying to squeeze in some work time before getting the kids off to school and she asked if I always knew how to draw. And I told her that I always liked to draw and I did it a lot when I was a kid. And she got big tears in her eyes and said, but I can't do it like you. My drawings aren't pretty. 

And the truth is they're not. Neither of my kids are prodigies, let's just say. Both of them mostly scribble. And I vacillate between being fine with that and being disappointed. How awful, right? But true. For a while my son talked all the time about how he wanted to be an artist. But he almost never decides to just get some markers and draw. He'll get them and write a letter about something or write his name with ten exclamation points. But drawing doesn't come to mind when he's bored at home. He'd rather write memos in his organizer. I'm not kidding. And when we sit down together to draw in the afternoon most often both kids want me to draw something for them or want me to decide what they should draw. Aren't kids supposed to be naturally free and expressive in their visual creativity? The whole exercise makes me irritated. Mostly because I know it's my own fault. I'm probably what's stifling them. I stifle myself sometimes too. The truth is I'm not great at drawing. It's hard for me to just draw a chair or a person or a piece of fruit. Which is why I don't draw those things. Play to your strengths, I say, which for me is color.

So when my little girl came to me distressed about her own abilities all I could think was that I wished I had something I'd drawn as a kid. A few paintings from kindergarten to show my kids that this is how it starts. A scribble. A stick figure. No aspect. No proportion. Just color and love. And outside the lines. Maybe we should go see a Jackson Pollack or Mark Rothko exhibit so they can see that even famous artists scribble and make a big mess.

That afternoon I decided to try something new. While my daughter was napping, my son and I tried some still life drawing and we both drew southpaw. Except he really is left-handed and I'm not. So it gave me an exercise in letting go a little which gave my drawings a kid-like quality. He liked them and liked how his pictures turned out too.  It was positive all around. Then he asked if I wanted his drawings and I said absolutely yes. That's when he showed his true talent. He turned on all the charm and replied they cost $2 each. I might hire him to be my agent.


Naomi said...

I am in the airport in Toronto. We just arrived for a Bat Mitzvah and have a bit of time before the Friday night out of town dinner, so I turned on my computer... As usual, I got to the end of your post and started laughing out loud! My husband was very concerned. "are you OK?" he said, "Yah, just reading Susie's latest post". I am usually alone in my studio when this happens, not in a public place! To your kids and to great laughs!

barbra said...

oh, susie. bless you.
my oldest is rehearsing for the school musical right now, and she does not have any stage presence. i am just having such a difficult time figuring out how to feel about this. maybe i should try to give her some pointers (i have, and she yells at me). maybe it will come eventually. maybe i should find her a good class. (i would be fine if she didn't want to be on stage at all, but she says she likes acting.) motherhood is haaaaaaaaaarrdd! waaaaah!

Inner Toddler said...

bingo B. I'm already having that thing where I want them to be better than I am but what I really should want and do want if for them to be awesome at being them.

aimee said...

i love the idea of drawing with your non-dominant hand when making art with kids -- it puts everyone on an even playing field and puts the pesky comparisons (which kids seem to pick up so early) aside. can't wait to try that!

Liv @ Choosing Beauty said...

That is brilliant. We've had the same conversation in our house. Luckily, I have some old plastic plates, saved from when I was in kindergarten, that are basically scribbles and chubby angels. The start of many things, now than I think of it. :)

P.S. Where oh where did you get your centerpiece pitcher? I have tons of china in that pattern (it was my nana's) but have never seen the vase. Love!!

AG Ambroult said...

He is too much!
I can totally relate to how you feel. I had those thoughts here and there, too, and then one day my kids magically started drawing on their own, and they stopped asking me to draw something for them, and they stopped being so critical of their own stuff. As for entering memos into organizers? I will cry tears of joy to see my kids do that. For it would mean they did not inherit the willy nilly disorganized tendencies of their dear old mom.