Friday, November 11, 2011
One at a Time
Lately the girls seemed to have hit an artistic funk in which they began project after project both simple and ambitious and never finished any. At the end of a weekend day or rainy afternoon the art center was a splendid mess with little more than scribbles, quick drawings and crumbled sheets on the floor to show for it. Lots of wasted paper, art materials and much frustration resulted from this, especially when two little girls were asked to please clean up. There was also some bickering and jealousy over art materials and I started to notice that instead of focusing on their own work each girl would look to see what the other was doing and switch gears or just want what the other was using. This was not the creative, peaceful, harmonious art experience I envisioned for my family.
I started to miss those wonderful first experiences creating art at home. Discovering crayons, markers, chalk for the first time, learning about scissors and glue, treating each new art tool like a magic wand of sorts. The afternoons spent working on one single art project together and the final product, something to be proud of.
Over the years we've explored and collected many materials, designed a well-stocked art center for the girls to keep everything organized and accessible. I really wanted them to feel ownership of their art and inspiration and be able to create anything they wanted on a whim. I wanted to help them be more than art students working on projects, I wanted them to be independent artists able to listen to and follow their own muse. And to a great extent this has happened. Each girl has loads of wonderful work created without any prompting or adult guidance, each has been free to explore and favor mediums and develop their own vision and style, to linger in a phase or quickly move on to the next.
But also, for whatever reason, having twenty different mediums and a variety of paper, three different types of crayons and markers in dozens and dozens of colors, suddenly became a bit paralyzing. Too much choice sometimes hinders creativity rather than fueling it. It can be confusing and stressful not to have any boundaries. It results in unfinished work, big messes, discontent.
So, back to basics, and back to me being the curator of our home environment, a role I love. I proposed this: that we would work with one medium at a time for a whole week and store everything else away so it wouldn't distract us. I knew immediately this was going to work because of how excited the girls were to clean, weed, scrub their art center and help prepare our first materials. I chose coloring pencils first because we have hundreds from various sets and the girls almost never use them. We spent a good part of the afternoon sharpening them to pretty points and then, with the rest of our art supplies neatly stashed in the laundry room, the girls sat at their clean art table each with a new sketch journal, the tub of pencils between them. They drew peacefully, focused and quiet, only talking to share what color they were using next. Success!
We've made a list of what we have that we'll focus on going forward. Crayons, markers, stamps + ink, watercolors, chalk, glue + paper + scissors, tempera paint. I am so excited to give each medium its own time in the sun and see how my girls rediscover it. I'm thinking I will also find one special lesson or project for each medium that makes its particular qualities stand out. Also, I'll ask the girls to use each medium to represent the same thing so we can compare the work. Simplicity is not always the answer, but so often, it is.