Art: It's Elementary

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So I'm moseying around William's room. He's eleven and teetering between the days of the simple pleasures(Legos, loose drawings and a massive collection of Pokémon cards) and the days of pre-adulthood (anything digital, anything musical and anything that eats, breathes and sleeps 2013 pop culture). One of my weekend pastimes is to venture into my boys' rooms and tease out the items that can be funneled to a younger child or to the greater good of Goodwill. There's a trick though. My success in making more room in their lairs is to be the good sleuth - quick and quiet. I must work fast, efficiently but make it look like nothing has been disturbed or has disappeared. My friends, this in and of itself is an art form.

As I was pulling books that William had outgrown, a piece of paper wedged between two books fell to the floor. Could it be a love note? To William?From William? Or could it be a detailed plan on how he would get a full scholarship to an Ivy League school? It was none of those things. It was this:

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It turns out that in a fit of rage toward his brother George, William had chosen to express his anger with pen and paper rather than wrath and pummeling. No parent condones their child to call his sibling fat, stupid or -gasp - "the ugly hippo." But no parent would turn down a pass on a household brawl either. As I folded up the note, I was actually proud of William. He had funneled that emotion into a visual, an expression. And somehow that illustrated, pent-up frustration had worked to raise William above the situation that had made him so very upset.

Isn't it wonderful that even without the direction of a parent, a therapist or a teacher, children use art to put a feeling - whether it be one of sorrow, happiness, hopefulness, celebration or trepidation - on paper, in clay, on stage. Speaking of sorrow, around Christmastime, my friend Tammy's little boy Holden drew the picture below after their cat ate the family's parakeet.

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It's a picture of the bird and all the other birds in heaven. Even though the subject matter is sad, Holden's use of bright colors and the illustration of the many bird friends their parakeet has above the clouds signals something happy. It also shows that Holden has some big thoughts of comfort for their small feathered friend.

Another one of our friend's four children recently wrote and performed a play for their father's birthday. With five scenes, each telling a story of their dad's life, they named it "The Life of Young John Bradshaw." They all had parts, memorized their lines, made their costumes and rehearsed. They even took a bow and sang a song at the end. I know - it made me green with envy too. But what a wonderful way to use art to show a dad how much he is loved.

My youngest child George wrote and illustrated the drawing below:

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Yes, sad. Tragic too. But again, similar to the birthday play, it's another way art is used to show a dad how much he was - and still is - loved. And I bet his son felt a little less sad after he put an artistic flair to his powerful emotion. Art is just as valuable in the practice of it as much as it is in its final and finely executed form. Sometimes it just takes a kid, a crayon and a piece of paper to remind us.

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