Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This is Why My Daughter is a Better Artist Than Me

So at the library a few weeks ago, we found a stack of drawing books. 

RJ has taken to sleeping on them, her little body wedged between stacks of sketchbooks, boxes of pencils, and anime how-tos. One of the books is a real art course, called Art for Kids, by Kathryn Temple. It reminds me of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, for kids. It is methodical, step by step, with exercises and warm ups and lessons. I love it. I've been reading it to RJ. She's really liked the rules: things like, Don't compare your art to other peoples. Draw more. There is no right way to draw something. And she's really liked the idea of seeing like an artist.

Last night we began some of the exercises. This first one was a fun scribbling drawing, and we worked together and found interesting shapes and filled in all the white spaces. It was soothing. MP said of the finished product, "this kinda looks like my brain is talking to me." And as we were quietly filling in the loops and swoops she said, "this feels like that I'm asleep." It did. It was lovely.


I thought, "this works! we could have our own, step-by-step art class! I could give my kids real art skills in an overtly methodical way, and brush up on my own at the same time! It's a foolproof plan!"

This morning, RJ was eager to do more. The next exercise in the book was to make continuous line drawings-- choose an object to draw, don't lift your pen, and don't look at your paper. The point is to practice connecting your eye directly to your hand, and to work on seeing lines and shapes and the way they connect without interference from your left brain and it's over enthusiasm to interpret, label and decode.


RJ made two noble attempts, before descending into a regal grump. She hated the results: nonsensical, messy, disordered.

I was irritated with her irritation. I may have nagged: "Just try just stretch your brain, just try new things even if it's not perfect."

She drew a picture of a butt farting.

"Fine," I said. "You do what you want. I'm going to do a workbook with MP."

RJ got out a how-to draw Disney book and I ignored her. Twenty minutes later, after MP's patience wore out with phonics, RJ had produced a perfect copy of Bambi. Colors and everything. No tracing. Perfect.



She skipped right over the "practicing seeing like an artist" thing, and went right to the, "producing art she is happy with" thing.

A light bulb went on over my soggy old brain. I've spent all my time as an aspiring artist, writer, gardener, wife, parent, person-- just warming up. Learning the theory. Mastering micro-skills.

She, at six, skipped right to Making Something Good, process be darned.

And that is why my six year old is a better artist that I am. Do I need to say how pleased I am that she is? I am. So pleased. Wish I could take ANY of the credit, but I can't. I can just try and imitate her, and Do Good Work, without waiting to rehearse first.