I recently uncovered some of my kids childhood art, and at the same time, some of my own as well. My mother kept a xerox copy of some drawings I did when I was preschool age. Judging from child development research, I was probably 4 at the time. Mom has used the word prodigious, and also precocious to describe the drawings. I don’t know — but I do know that they are fun images. Birds, furniture, daddy, all with circles for feet and drawn with youthful abandon, with no thought about a horizon or the relationship between one thing and another on the page. I liked one of the pages so much that I posted it on facebook, and threatened to make it into a painting. My 28 year old daughter took that as a challenge and digitally re-made my drawing into a colored field, morphing the couch into a frenzied rodent, a spontaneous collaboration, one might say!
The original drawings were themselves a collaboration I suppose. On another page of drawings my mom had drawn a bird, a girl, and I used those to jump off and draw what I knew. I produced a domestic scene, couch, chair, doors, daddy, birds. I would venture to say that this means good things about my childhood, that it was overall peaceful and secure.
Several things I take away at this moment I decided to make a painting from my youthful drawings:
- Artistic development never ends. I’ve been telling people that this painting took me 54 years to complete. Ha!
- Parental encouragement and support of creative endeavors is priceless.
- A parent’s PRESENCE with a child, not taking over, or imposing adult ideas on childhood exploring, also priceless.
- Mom felt this piece of paper was important enough to keep for over 50 years. Very special.
- Asking an artist about their work, then listening and accepting what they say allows the one-who-looks to know more about the artist.
Now after a stroke, my mom is in assisted living. I still see the spark in her eye, still hear her encouraging words, and am grateful for her life, her entirely individual ways and her attention to me throughout my life. She is experiencing challenges forming words, but I simply admire her will to keep trying, and even her curiosity and interest in what is happening with her in spite of the frustrations. Always curious, very intelligent and inquisitive, she’s now set up with books on tape and her knitting…and I’m sure this will be an adventure too. May this phase be as peaceful and secure an adventure as my own childhood apparently was. This one’s for you, mom.