Penguins and Playgrounds

Every so often, or rather, almost every week, we drag out some paint of one kind or another and pretend we are artists. It isn’t very hard to do, since of course we are artists, each and every one of us. As Picasso once famously said (if not in these very words), every child is born an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.

With professional artist grandparents and an avid crafter and writer for a mother, K and B are surrounded with art. Surrounded with artistic thinking. Surrounded with creativity. And, or course, surrounded with lots and lots of art supplies. Which they use. Often.

Penguins playing in the snow

For us, art is done for the pure pleasure of it. Oh, we do it because it is so satisfying to make beautiful things, but we also strive to see the beauty in the process as much as in the product. Often, we’ll experiment with a new medium or a new technique, sometimes copying something we’ve seen, other times just seeing what we can come up with on our own.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that for a child to be independently creative — for a child to truly become comfortable producing work that stems entirely from their own imagination and their own desire to create — they have to first have a model, and second, have the freedom to deviate from that model without censure. A child rarely produces an interesting piece on their own until they’ve had a chance to copy someone else’s interesting piece. Only once they’ve had a chance to test the waters by doing what someone else has done and been fed a healthy diet of love and curiosity do they go willingly into the deep.

After a while, going into the deep becomes a habit. Instead of thinking “wow, that’s beautiful, I couldn’t possibly do that,” the thought process changes to something more along the lines of “wow, that’s beautiful, I don’t know how to do that but I have an idea that just might work.” In short, they become explorers in the playground that is art.

That playground lays a foundation for so much more. By tasting the freedom of creative thinking and self-expression in an artistic medium, they are much more willing to venture into the world of scientific exploration. The world of woodworking. The world of mathematics. The world of… well, anything. They know in their hearts that they are capable of doing wondrous things. Of creating awesomeness. They know in their gut that taking a risk often leads to beauty. And that when it doesn’t, it often leads to laughter. Through art, they can become brave.

A painted playground

Have you played in an artistic playground lately? If not, you should. Go on. Be brave.

(And don’t forget to laugh at your disasters.)

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