My step-son has artist written all over him. He's much more likely to be found skateboard and IPod in hand than paint brush...but the inherent inclination is there and I'm jazzed. When I met him, nearly six years ago, he was eight and already as individual as one can be when one can't spell individual. Right from the start he was completely curious about everything in my studio and didn't even seem to be phased one bit that the art I made involved a sewing machine. All he saw was the old bits and pieces that were everywhere and went into these cool things I called collages. He never hesitated to try his hand at the ideas he had. And yes, at eight he had ideas...lots of ideas. So much so that when 3 p.m. rolled around and he and his brother strolled through the door with a chorus of "Hey KC!" I knew all my work was about to come to a screeching halt. After all he had had all day to think of what cool things he could make.
Now I never had children. Never had to share a remote control much less my sacred studio with a child. And I had come from a family of all girls and my mother had come from a family of all girls. When my nephew was born and they came out to tell the family it was boy we all kind of looked at each other like...what the heck are we supposed to do with one of those! And I'm not going to lie to you...those days of stopping my work and relinquishing my art supplies to a little boy who never stopped making noises (I learned early on that if male children didn't have anything to say they made sound effects) while he made his creations was hard on me. Made me down right grumpy at times. But he was so into it. I would tuck away the really rare fabrics and trims, but other than that I let him have at it. It was just another form of babysitting to me.
But then I started noticing little things and not so little things. The way he observed the world around him, soaking it in, his ability to mimic (quite hysterically) the voices he heard. How his face lit up when I told him he could have a small piece of canvas and handed him some acrylics and a brush. He didn't just go into my studio and scribble some cute little kid rainbow. He put headphones on and found the right music so he could feel what he was painting. Don't look at me! When he was given an assignment to write poems in 4th grade, he tackled it with great enjoyment and seriousness and wrote a small booklet of poems that could take your breath away. His teacher told us that this young man was the kind of student he got up for in the mornings. Us too.
But when he came home from school with a paper that ended with "And when I grow up I want to be an artist because KC taught me how to be creative,"...well I don't have to tell you that right then and there art stopped being Super Nanny. I realized that this boy had already packed his bags and was heading down a road he paved everyday with his own ideas. What an incredible thing to be even a small part of.
Now, as a teenager he gets all that angst and energy out by learning every trick he can on the skateboard and speaking "skater-ese" which I assure you is a language unto itself...but he also spends hours in his room teaching himself the guitar and writing notebooks full of songs. He tapes and edits short films, is funnier than any kid I know, and isn't embarrassed to show you the beautiful sunsets pictures he has taken on his phone. He digs looking at art and I dig looking at him looking at art.
It's not that difficult of a thing to do...to encourage creativity in a child or to gently open up the world of art to them. Sure, it helps to have a youngster with a natural inclination to explore his creative side, but any child...ANY CHILD can have their world changed by us sharing with them the thing that changed ours.