Friday, July 15, 2011

Kids and paintings

From the first stirrings of an idea to the end result, there are baby steps, miss-steps, leaps of faith, side-tracks, fits, starts and pit stops of varying lengths for varying reasons The drawing for my foam core cut-outs came together right away, within the first few days of the project.  The painting for the finished paper doll will be another story entirely.

My goal was to paint ten faces before I paint the cutouts.  I have done this enough to know that the tenth one will be distinctly better than the first few.  Today it occurred to me that I can do the painting on a piece of canvas paper and glue it to the cutout.  It doesn't have to be right the first time or the eleventh time.

One of the main differences between the graphic and performing arts is that a painter can start over as many times as necessary.  In fact, most painters have stacks and stacks of canvasses that have three or four layers of failed paintings one underneath the other, like layers of an onion.  With years of study, struggle and experience, master painters can get it right the first time, but even they will usually choose only a few of their many, many pieces to display. And, they will start the next one even before the current one is finished.  A painter, in other words, can keep trying as many times as it takes.

My grand daughter invited me to attend a writers' clinic with her in Mount Vernon, Washington. One of the presenters was a professional illustrator, Jesse Joshua Watson, whose message was to keep trying.  He showed a series of illustrations from concept through completion.  It was fascinating.  I think his hope was that all the kids who liked art would feel encouraged to paint, trusting that their skill will grow as they persist.

I read in Children of Alcoholism, By Judith S. Seixas and Geraldine Youcha, that kids raised by alcoholics miss out on the natural sequence of planning and executing simple things.  According to the book, alcoholics very often have big dreams and grand schemes, but they are too crippled by their disease to follow through.  Promises are seldom kept. Therefore, the kids don't learn that you choose a goal, plan the necessary steps, trust that they will eventually lead you to the end result, then plug away persistently.  Goals are achieved, and dreams come true.  Things get done.

Art projects are a wonderful way to teach kids this sequence.  If the first one doesn't look the way they wanted it to, it's nevertheless a great, awesome, perfect thing because it is part of the mastery sequence.  Every brush stroke or crayon scrawl is part of the journey, and every interim masterpiece matters.  It's an idea that started in the child's head and found its way onto a piece of paper.  What a triumph!  And there's a bonus.  The next one will be even better.


  1. I have found that my kids almost prefer the act of creating maybe more than the end product!

  2. Sharon, I'd say it's a tribute to your parenting that your kids love the journey. It does not occur to them that they might "do it wrong." They all seem eager to jump in and give it a try, whatever it might be.