Last week’s homework from my Blogging Your Way e-course (that fantastic one created by Holly Becker from Decor8 and Leslie Shewring from A Creative Mint) was to try something new from a list of ten options. I picked: Document parts of your day in a creative way (photos, podcast, video, hand writing, etc.) and post it on your blog.
I have to be honest – I had pretty much no plan for this assignment until the end of the week when I happened to be outside with my kids, trying to keep them entertained with watercolors.
I didn’t stage the “photo shoot” as is evidenced by the crappy Rose Art paint and Target paper supplies. On our ugly cement front steps no less! Oh – and don’t miss that super cute On The Border plastic kid’s cup that I used for the water.
But there was something about the muddy, messy watercolors that appealed to me. So I pulled out my iphone to take some pictures.
Yes – a camera phone even! Only the fanciest of technology for my creative efforts, let me tell you…
At first only Eleanor was interested in painting so I picked up the other brush and began a little watercolor doodle while watching the boys throw dirt at each other.
I used to take art classes when I was a kid (and even a few in college where I lost track of pretty much all creative spirit I once had), but I have to say, watercolors were never my thing. They were so difficult to work with – always bleeding into each other and refusing to conform to my vision. So “doodles” were pretty much all I could manage.
I noticed Eleanor imitating my fish scale design and loved her loose, colorful take on my prim, repetitive one.
Initially I found my own blue, green, yellow arches rather appealing – but after seeing this less studied and more exuberant creation, I shoved my own paper aside.
Just in time for George to show up and do some of his own painting. I actually love George’s watercolors and save many of them. He has a really interesting way of filling the page with sweeping brush strokes, ranging from thick and saturated to thin and feathery. This is not the best example of his usual style, but I did like the shapes he painted. They look so cheerful – like an assortment of tropical fish. And considering that he spent all of two minutes on it, it’s a pleasing little arrangement. Oh yes – and he is wearing blue nail polish…just in case you were wondering.
When George ran off to scooter or something, Oliver took his place.
Oh Oliver…my very, very artistically apathetic almost six year old… What happened to the toddler who would happily paint all day at daycare?
The truth is, Oliver’s interest in art supplies changed when his special needs began to really surface (around age two). He started missing some small motor milestones – like an age appropriate pencil grip – and was far more interested in the tactile quality of the supplies than how he could actually use them on a piece of paper. Finger paint was wildly popular at our house.
An interesting thing about Oliver’s use of watercolors is his attention to the water itself. He is less focused on the paint going on the page than he is in the clouds of color that diffuse though the water as he dips his brush. And looking through his eyes – I don’t blame him. Next time you have watercolors on hand, grab a clear cup full of water and watch the fireworks display unfold.
The other thing that Oliver likes to do is finger print paintings. It’s far more satisfying for him to have his fingers in the materials that he’s using. As you can see in the images below…
His paintings are always very battered looking. The colors leech into each other and turn brown and gray. You can see that hands have been put to work and that another agenda may have been in play. I think it’s beautiful.
I think they’re all beautiful. Unique and full of personality.
After the kids ran off to whack tree with sticks, I started arranging their paintings and taking more pictures. I now absolutely hated my fish scale doodle.
It was boring. Lifeless.
And I thought I could do better. Doodles can be fun. They can make you happy when you look at them. There is value in experiencing materials and letting them show you what you want them to do. There is beauty in inspiration. Not every effort has to have the goal of fine art….doodles are fine. But when you are looking for beauty and inspiration, you have to let go a little…put some heart into it.
Instead of doodling with paint, why not try scribbling?
I still think my kids blow me out of the water, but these little scribbles do make me smile. The fish scales, on the other hand went into the trash.
And if that little lesson wasn’t enough for me. Eleanor came back and gave me some great new pictures of her own creative process. Her own observation of others’ techniques. I guess she liked Oliver’s fingerprints. She decided to use her toes.
She started out with a small painting that happened to be sitting next to the paints. And I’m fairly certain it’s one of George’s. But after adding a couple of red toe prints, she moved onto a bigger blank page.
I kind of love this one though. In fact, I think it’s my favorite of the day.
My children teach me something new every day. Any parent would say the same. But I think this may be one of my favorite lessons. Open your eyes – look around – don’t force things – see what happens… You can’t force creativity – it’s a process. And a great work of art doesn’t have to be the end game. Sometimes a scribble that makes you smile is just as satisfying. Because the process is half the experience.