July 26, 2016

Kids Art Week, Day 1

Caitlyn and I are following along with Carla Sonheim's 2016 installment of Kids Art Week. Five days of free how-to art project posts with each project inspired by the work of a famous artist.

Caitlyn's a good artist already, having produced some nicely drawn dragons last December. I like the idea of making more art myself, but I find myself frequently stymied by the blank page. One would think I'd have some clue how to handle that since I write a fair bit. Maybe it's that I can call the writing "journaling" and string together free-association thoughts until there's something sensible. Maybe words are just a more comfortable medium for me. Maybe words are more ephemeral and it's easier to throw out the gibberish. Despite my intentions to be more artistic, I find it challenging to get out the paints or the pencils. It's not hard for me to write about things we are doing or explore my inner landscapes with words, but settling on what to draw seems impossible. When I'm writing, I add and delete words, move them around like blocks, until I'm satisfied with what I've said. Strange that the idea of placing and removing line after line seems so daunting.

After the first day of Kids Art Week, I'm discovering that I really appreciated the "assignment". Maybe this is something I should look into: a series of assigned projects to build confidence, a way to become more fluent with the tools and techniques without the burden of finding subject matter. When I was in high school, I tended to write stories in response to writing assignments. I tried a few times to just sit down and write a story but the constraints of an assignment (none of which I can remember now although I can remember (and probably still have somewhere) the stories I wrote in response) produced better results. Constraints help: the original Star Wars movies are better than the prequels precisely because of the (mostly financial) constraints.

I'm terrible at making up the assignments for myself, though. I compromise the process by giving myself constraints that aren't really a challenge. Or I discount the necessity of the project because it came from me, not a professor or a client, resulting in the "assignment" always sliding to the bottom of my to-do list. This would be part of my larger issue of devaluing efforts I make for myself, since those are easily viewed as being selfish. I'm too well trained to put things for myself last, after everything I could do that would benefit someone else. Creative projects purely for my own development (never mind enjoyment) come only after every other possible thing has been accomplished. Since there will always be dust bunnies and cat hair to vacuum, I never reach the end of that list.

This first project was simple and fun to do. I'm tentatively hopeful that I'll learn just enough confidence to be inspired to revisit our art supplies more frequently.