Children and Art

February 13, 2008

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot. I grew up surrounded by art. Watching both of my parents create beautiful things. Watching them teach others. Learning to appreciate the natural creations surrounding us and experimenting with nature...smearing flower petals to create paint, mud sculptures, constructing houses out of vines and sticks. Wandering galleries and museums. Even spending a summer traveling by train around the country as we visited museums and exhibits. I still remember my excitement about visiting The Art Institute of Chicago. We read books about some of the well known pieces on display and as the train got closer to Chicago my anticipation grew. I was ten. I spent hours as a child drawing and painting. I went through a phase where I was obsessed with neighborhoods (perhaps a result of living in the country). I had a notebook that I filled with little sketches of houses. Floor plans. Exterior drawings. Streets with houses. I drew the families that inhabited each house. Giving them names and characteristics. Imagining and writing up little vignettes about their lives in their little houses on intersecting streets. In high school, I created books with my short stories, poems, photographs, and illustrations. In college, I took my first drawing class and I loved the challenge of the assignments and the familiar smells of the studio space. I continued to create things and get that thrill of fleshing out ideas in my social work endeavors (especially drawn towards art therapy), building gardens every time we move, and making gifts for others.
Drawing, painting, photography, creating has always felt like a very natural, normal, and comforting part of my life. I don't have the compulsive drive to be a professional artist like my sister and my parents, but I do feel the need to observe, to create, and to appreciate. I think a lot of that is due to my parents and their belief that children should always be encouraged to create. That art supplies should be as readily available as food and books. That children should be free to explore their natural surroundings. That they should be exposed to a wide range of cultures and art.
Now that I have children I find my creative juices are being sparked in a new way. I am seeing the world through their eyes. Suddenly birds and squirrels are funny and magical creatures. Details are suddenly brought into clear focus. Questions are a constant part of the exploration process starting from those early words of "what's this" to "why" to "why is the sun so hot?". And watching both of my children create, build, paint, and explore gives me more joy than I ever anticipated. And I find myself savoring the chance to return to fingerpainting, fairy house building, mud art, and rock collecting.

My favorite book on the topic of children and art is "Young at Art" by Susan Striker. A great book and in my mind a must-read book for all parents and teachers. And I recently discovered this blog, The Artful Parent with some great ideas. You don't need to be a professional artist. You don't need to send them to art classes. Just make paper and crayons available. Draw, paint, build, play, create and have fun with them. Get dirty, messy, and sticky.

After you are covered in paint and happiness share that experience with this amazing art exchange program in India. Make a drawing and send it to Art 2 Heart. Visit their website for more information....what a great way to merge art, culture, exchange, and goodwill. Great for all ages!
Tisra said...

Great post and a true passion of mine, too. The igniting of creative talents and pursuits is common in many mothers are we reexamine life through the eyes of our children. That all children should be as excited over galleries and museums as the newest video game! Wouldn't that be lovely? :-)


Corinne said...

The Art Institute of Chicago was my introduction to fine art as well. I love this post. I really need to work harder at getting creative with my kids

Heather said...

What an inspiring post, Lucia. Of course your whole blog is inspiring. Every time you post about a fun craft you did with your kids it makes me want to stir myself a little more in that area. :) By the way, I lived in the country too as a child, and I was fascinated by "in town" living, so I made up my own towns, complete with maps, floorplans (my dad was an architect), the families to inhabit them, and stories to go with them...

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