children, Life Talk, school


Right now, we have three Ralph Masiello drawing books (Farm, Ancient Egypt, and Fairies, which book I’m going to have to buy because my girls wail whenever we have to return it to the library and risk SOME OTHER KID borrowing it before we can re-borrow it and renew it a thousand times again), two Learn-to-Draw book (forest animals and farm), one Dover drawing book (flowers), and one Encyclopedia of Drawing scattered across the dining room table.

My girls would spend hours every day drawing if I let them, especially Joy. Most of the time they just want to scribble the same picture on a hundred different pieces of paper (which drives me MAD), but they are also very insistent on wanting to have all these art books around, JUST IN CASE they want to use them. And Joy is, in fact, using the Fairy drawing book even as I type, to draw a ballet fairy for her dance teacher. My brother-in-law’s Christmas present was a portrait of the Tooth Fairy to hang in his new dentist office, painstakingly drawn with the help of this same book.

They aren’t, generally, into coloring. We have plenty of crayons, markers, and colored pencils, but for the most part they only want to draw. Unless they are offered Mommy’s colored pencils, of course. That’s a horse of a different color.

I have tucked away somewhere Joy’s first filled sketchbook, Gracie’s first picture of people that actually looked like people, certain treasured drawings that they couldn’t bear to let me throw away. Most papers, however, get filled with drawings and then tossed out at the end of the day, or week, or whenever the apartment starts feeling like it’s overflowing with paper the same way Strega Nona’s home overflowed with pasta after lazy Big Anthony got hold of the magic pasta pot.

And it feels like a waste, like we’re destroying trees and wasting time and never going anywhere. “These scribbles aren’t helping them become better artists!” I fume to myself. “The 50th one looks exactly the same as the first! The drawings from this month look the same as the ones from a month ago! They aren’t developing.” (I am SUCH an American in my ingrained ways of thinking.)

Yet somehow, in my heart, I know that this has value, it isn’t just wasted time or paper, any more than time spent creating imaginary worlds and games is a waste, any more than hours spent in incomprehensible-to-adults play is a waste. I may not be able to reason myself into a place where logic makes sense of it and sees a purpose in it, but I can, at least, shut my brain off and leave them to create their own magic while I pursue my own affairs.

Which, ironically enough, often include scribbling how many words that might seem to many people to be a complete waste of time and space. Value, you see, doesn’t come from other people understanding and approving of our actions. And so without understanding, but with instinctive sympathy, I close my mouth and let them scribble.

And this spring, maybe, we’ll plant some trees to make up for the ones that’ve gone into all the paper we’ve used.

3 thoughts on “Art”

  1. I wonder if you could find an obliging office somewhere that has good-one-side scrap paper they’d let you have – i.e. stuff that’s been printed on one side and is no longer in use, but has a perfectly good blank backside for drawing on. I know at the library we had stacks of it, because we printed out the requests lists every day and as soon as we were done pulling the holds, tossed the paper.

    I agree, scribbling isn’t useless at all. They’re putting in their 10,000 hours (see Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”). We often don’t have a clue what skills they’re learning by doing that – fine motor coordination is just one that springs to mind.

    1. I just sent Carl to see the Director of Student Life here on campus to ask if we can scrounge paper from the offices. Hopefully no other parent-students have thought of that and gotten it all already!

  2. My kids– mostly Madeleine, but Sam occasionally gets stuck on themes at least too, though he’s not as prolific– do the same picture on a hundred different pieces of paper too! This week actually we finally dealt with the Pile of Paintings that had engulfed the kitchen table since Christmas– she got paint and a packet of printer paper for Christmas, and she’d sit and paint picture after picture then immediately set it aside in the rapidly growing pile. Jason said to me, “You know, when we finally get those cleaned up, save them for me because I can use them as targets,” which just made me crack up at how terrible the concept of using ones child’s artwork as targets sounded… but really, they were mostly variations on the same blobs, and most of them were stuck together anyway– this just ADDED a step before recycling! We did save some of the nicest ones.

    Maddie draws and “writes” in my journal when she gets her hands on it, too. This morning I found two happy caterpillars crawling across my page. It’s adorable. I love watching how her artwork evolves– the themes she keeps coming back to, the motifs.

    I hope she never gets discouraged from her creativity.

    Yes, I’m finally catching up with blogs today.

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