Monday, January 4, 2010
Painting Around the Lines
It has been entirely too cold for the kids to play outside lately. The wind whips around corners, stealing any hint of warmth with it. Icy air sears throats and noses turn to ice chips before we can skip inside to the warmth again. This is the time of year for indoor activities, and no activity is better than making a mess in the name of art. That's how I found myself sending two kids scurrying for "old, ratty-tatty, wouldn't wear to school" clothes while I added dabs of color to plates-turned palettes for them.
My perfectionistic self focused on forming perfect circles with the paint, spaced a just-so amount of surface apart. A whirl and dab of viridian, a whirl and dab of ochre, a whirl and dab of cerulean, a whirl and...well, no, the black wasn't coming out. So I squeezed from the tip of the paint tube down, hoping it was simply blocked at the opening or something, until instead of a creamy dollop I received a crunchy-looking squirt of what might once have been paint.
The less-than perfect palettes didn't deter my eager artists from starting on their work: a majestic unicorn on a rainbow, and a dog and her frolicking puppies. Out came water cups to swirl used paint into, and paper towels to blot the brushes before they were returned for fresh paint.
My daughter carefully took her time, gently brushing stroke after meticulous stroke across the canvas. Her brother, on the other hand, took to the work with verve, dabbing his brush enthusiastically from one color to another, then flinging them onto his canvas with strong, passionate strokes. Each child worked diligently to finish the paintings, imbuing the work with their own personalities. They each knew something I'm still working to learn: those lines on the canvas are just guides to flesh out the ghost of an idea. It is the artist who decides where to place the paint, and it is the way the artist approaches the painting that embodies its uniqueness.
When I look at the paintings I see my daughter with her desire for neatness. I see my son with his zest for life. But I don't see the lines, because neither one of them allowed the lines to hold them back.