On Being an Artful Parent

By Ella and Mommy

On my shelf is a wonderful book called The Artful Parent, which teaches parents how to bring out their children's creativity. (A book that I need to reread ASAP, as our morning art sessions haven't been ending in the best way.) In the morning, before her after-lunch bath time, Ella plays with her art materials. It's occurred to me that the artful parent should probably be creating her own art, too. It's only fair, right? Why should children have all the fun?

I don't remember being an artful child. My only memory of attending an art class is from when I was in grade school. I went with my brother for a summer class trial. We drew a sphere. At the end of the day, it was decided that only my brother should continue. I don't know why I wasn't allowed to join, or maybe I've forgotten; what I know is that it cemented in me the "fact" that art was my brother's thing, not mine. I remember his oil paintings, portraits, in messy corners around the house. I don't remember sketching or even doodling when I was growing up. Not even once.

I remember writing though. While my brother's paintings were being hung up, stories were how I earned my place on the wall. I guess things worked out for the best as I became a writer and editor. But, I've always wished I could draw.

Two minutes before she added her touch

There is freedom in being a complete beginner and admitting I have no idea what I'm doing. Not knowing what to do means I also don't know what not to do.

This is how children create. And since I'm painting with a child, I'm trying to paint like a child. Everything is allowed (except tasting the paint). In the best art environment, mistakes are allowed, even encouraged. Paper is never wasted. Failed attempts are part of the process. Experiments serve no other purpose than to be the building blocks of tomorrow's failures. Keep trying and failing, until the failing finds a form and becomes a finished product. Stick it on your wall to remind you that you have the capacity for creating something that's beautiful to you.

Today, I start with a swirl. What if I swirl some more. What if I swirl bigger. Swirl until I've swirled all the way around. Oh, look, this could be a flower. What if I repeat the process in another color? Or use a sharper swirl, almost a swoosh, this time.

This time, she added the "sticks" (stems)

This is my starting point. From this point forward, it can only get better, or at worst, stay the same.

It's nap time!