Friday, March 27, 2009

Kids Allowed

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 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.



I love the creativity of children. Their imaginations haven't been squashed and shoved into a box of conformity. I still have drawings my grandson made several years ago.


Jamie said...

Good for you. You are a wonderful mom. I have kids (four of them that I raised alone...)who were curious explorers and inventors and I wouldn't trade the joy of seeing them create for anything. They have always been poets, musicians, singers and artists - (oh, and they have day-jobs, too). What a gift you have given him. Thank you for sharing this. It made my day! Jamie V in MT

Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

It's funny reading this because we have a family of all boys. I am hoping some day to have someone to leave all my "stuff" to and the way things work with genetics, it's likely going to end up being a boy.

My son is artistic. When he was 4, he came up with these comic book characters and would draw them all the time. I framed them and put them on his wall when we re-did his room from toddler to young boy. Now they in a box so his kids can have them someday.

He also teaches himself to play guitar. He had lessons at one time, but recently decided the guitar was cool again, so he goes on youtube and finds guitar tutorials to play along with.

I think when ANYONE shares their creative self with us, it is our duty as artistic ambassadors to support and encourage that energy. Nothing makes me sadder than hearing someone say "I am not artistic." It's simply not true. As human beings, it is our very nature to make and do-that's how we evolve! It's just been shamed out of us that it's an acceptable form of expression and it's been elevated into something that only a chosen few can do. LIES! all LIES!

I think that anyone who does not allow you to be creative in whatever way you are and feel good about it is pulling your wings off. It's cruel and unkind and those are not the kind of people you ever want to listen to. They are sad and miserable people and they just want to steal your magic.

Mary said...

I loved this post. I have a daughter in college and though I never took all of her creative work seriously ( ya know like giving her a round of applause everytime she did something) I did take her and her pursuit of art seriously...always. Now she is writing in college and truly finding her adult voice. She is creative and I think that what you are doing with your "boys" is so validating. This is only the beginning of seeing what fruits will come to bear from the seeds you helped plant.

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

"And when I grow up I want to be an artist because KC taught me how to be creative"

that would have made me tear up like a little third grade girl

Halo Hill said...

You ROCK! You're a wonderful Mom and probably the BEST step-mom on the planet! The world has been made better by you doing this with your young guy! You opened doors for him that he never would have known even existed if not for you!

Imagine what this world would be life if as young growing minds and hearts, we ALL had access to such a person as you! Staggering thought!


Angie said...

What a nice post! I used to teach children's art classes and was always so amazed at what the kids were able to convey with their art.

One of my favorite projects was found object art. There was no limit to what the kids could do. They created anything from sculptures to doll houses with "junk" most people would throw away. The pieces were truely works of art when these young artists got through with them.

When the students would leave in the afternoon I was always so energized and inspired to do my own art the rest of the day.

They brought a lot of life into my studio every week - and yes, it was hard for me as well to let kids into my domain, but I soon got over it.

Enjoy your boy...

The Junkin' Yaya said...

Hey girlfriend!

Back home for the day from, came by to check on ya! :) Love the are such a great mommy! xo...deb

Joanna Pierotti said...

KC, love your post. You brought back lots of memories for me regarding my step-son, and the other kids I taught. You also brought back the memories of my parents constantly encouraging me as a young girl to keep up whatever I was creating. Though they are both gone now, they still encourage me, still giving me confidence as an artist. Those we affect and are affected by, last a life time.
love, joanna

Anonymous said...

KC, Love the post! These are memories that will not be forget over the years!

The Rustic Victorian said...

I agree with all the comments so far. Encouragement is so important when you are young. I have not had, or raised children, but I know how important my parents and grandparents encouragement in the arts changed me. What a gift to hear his words. Thank you for sharing this story.

sf said...

I too share my art and life with a couple of kids like that. We must be just about the luckiest of all!

Auntie Joy said...

All boys in this family too. Most (still have a little guy at home) have grown into big strong men, they learned to sew on the sewing machine, hand stich and use glitter (fairy dust.) Even if they don't consider themselves artist I think it helps them "get us". It also makes me think of what I told them over and over. "It's nice to share." Thanks for sharing..

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Simply beautiful! Timely too as I've got my girlfriend's three grands, whom she's adopting, this Saturday. I planned on us making bracelets but will also try for some fabric art. Thanks!

sonja said...

what an amazing kid and what a wonderful mentor you have been, are. i also have not had kids and have forgotten to be a gran mother but in making special gifts for mom's along the way, have encounted several great kids that are now young adults and i am proud to be one of the aunites that mentored art when parents where working for a living. m now i say i am making a life when asked what i do...besides fabric creations. Thank you for your wonderful blog, sonja