Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Get your art on.

A few days ago I heard a great interview on NPR with children's author Mo Willems. He is the creative genius behind such favorites as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!(which is the first book my sister gave Liam) and Don't Let the Pigeon Eat a Hot Dog! (which she also bought for him but decided to keep for herself).

Here is a bit of the interview from NPR.org:

Willems is obsessed with why adults don't draw — and he wants to do something about it.

"One of the interesting things about cartooning and doodling and drawing," Willems tells Michele Norris, "is that people stop when they decide they're not good at it. Nobody stops playing basketball when they realize they're not going to become a professional. The same thing should apply to cartooning."

Willems says just sitting and drawing a character brings out empathy in people, and that's something the world could use more of right now.

One of the biggest reasons children stop drawing is that they see that adults don't do it, Willems says. When he goes into classrooms, he says, teachers often ask him to get the kids to draw. But when he does, many of the teachers don't participate.

"Well, now the kids realize that this is just a baby activity," he says.

He reminds us that parents are actually cool in kids' eyes — for a while — and kids want to imitate what they do.

"If your kid comes home from school and you say, 'I'll be right with you; I'm just finishing a doodle,' the kid's going to go, 'Dude, I want to do that, too!' "

He suggests doing what his family does: have a family draw. His family gets a large piece of paper, picks a theme and then everybody draws. They went so far as to paint a wall with chalkboard paint.

To get adults started, Willems suggests drawing a favorite character from childhood. See Willems' blog for more.

I loved to draw and paint and do creative things as a kid but my passion sort of tapered off as I realized I wasn't as good as I wanted to be (it took me a while - I actually earned a minor in Fine Art trying to find my niche, If I'm not good at sculpture, maybe oil painting is my thing?). Eventually the frustration of not being able to create exactly what I wanted to got the better of me and I simply stopped trying.

I still thought of myself as a creative person but realized when I heard this interview that the only time I really got my art on was when I was likely to be good at it. Photography? As long as it's digital, you bet! Gluing stuff together? Sure! Coloring (in the lines) in a coloring book? Heck yeah! But free hand stuff like doodling or painting (aka, the stuff Liam does every single day)? Let's just say it's been a while.

I mean, sure, I draw the occasional horse or elephant or whatever it is Liam asks for but it always leaves me feeling kind of sad and inadequate. I look from my awkward, square legged animal to his lovely, squiggly lines and think, "Lucky kid. He must have gotten the art gene from my dad." And then I put down the magic marker and go back to watching from the sidelines.

Well, no more. I don't want to be a do as I say, not as I do kind of parent. I don't want to teach Liam that being creative is a kid thing he will surely grow out of. Worse than that, I really don't want to teach him that we should only do things we are good at. Could you imagine? Oh, honey, it's okay. If you're not immediately good, just give up. That's what Mama always does! Not exactly one of the life lessons I'm hoping to teach.

So, I've been getting my art on! It's not always pretty but I finally understand that that is so not the point. We've been having a grand old time with markers, crayons, acrylic paint, watercolors, chalk, glue, you name it! Here are just a few of my many masterpieces:

Any time I start to think, Wow! I'm really terrible! I just remember the song Liam has been singing to me all week:

I’m not perfect, no I’m not.
I’m not perfect,
But I’ve got what I got.
I do my very best, I do my very best,
I do my very best each day.
But I’m not perfect,
And I hope you like me that way!

It's from The Laurie Berkner Band on Jack's Big Music Show. Liam likes to put his arm around my shoulders and sway back and forth while he sings and it almost makes me cry every single time. No, he's not pefect. But I think he might be as close as they come.


ae said...

I am a confirmed doodler, which I'm sure makes me look all the less professional in meetings, but it's just what I do.

The books that I loved starting from childhood were by a guy named Ed Emberley - who taught you how to draw things by breaking them into manageable shapes and squiggles. Worth a look for any age!

Sandra Winfrey said...

Maggie: As always I have enjoyed reading your post! It was very relateable (haha ... I don't think that is a word), and I think my husband would also relate.

Oh ... and when I got the image of Liam swaying back in forth with his arms out to you singing "I'm Not Perfect" I teared up a bit. He sounds like such a sweet thoughtful child! :)

Girl Healthy said...

Your artwork is very inspiring. The last one, the bird, is especially wanting to be hung on the wall!

Katie said...

yeah, I just cried a little bit! Liam is such a thoughtful kid! Also, love your painting of a bird, it is beautiful! and the leash on the caterpillar too!