Da Vinci, Van Gogh, and My Kid


The main wall in my home office is covered with my daughter’s artwork. It’s a full display of 14 paintings, all on canvas. Her drawings and crafts, along with some from her brother, hang all around the other parts of the room, as well as the house.

Olivia loves creating art and I love when I can display it. She comes dancing home from Key To My Art excited to show me her latest project which can range from cubism to sculptures. Riesa, the owner, gives her positive reinforcement, showcases her work, and helps to foster her creativity in all the ways you hope a teacher will. Because of that, my walls have never been more artsy and my kid has never been happier. We’re lucky to have found such an amazing studio.

Art is the one class we never have to force her to go to. She loves the whole concept. In fact, Olivia and I have been playing “The Drawing Game” for as long as we can remember. It started as a throwaway project during a particularly persistent day of “You Said You’d Play With Me.” Frustrated, I spouted out the most basic idea that popped into my head.

Uh, how about if we think of crazy things for the other person to draw and then we draw it?

That was hundreds of images ago – images that include Superman using his heat vision to cook fries at McDonalds, a porcupine president addressing his animal kingdom, John Cena slow dancing with an elephant, and other insanity along those lines. We then reveal the pictures to each other and laugh like fools.

These drawing games last for hours and continue to be one of Olivia’s favorite pastimes. It costs nothing except a pencil and paper and beats the $200 Xbox any day of the week. Rather than staring at a screen with a glazed over expression, we push the boundaries of our imaginations to find ideas that out-crazy each other.

drawinggameThere’s something special about  keeping her love art going. Doodling is one of the first activities that a kid learns to do and one of the most creative. It goes beyond rubbing a crayon on a dead tree. It’s about thinking of what you will draw next, creating your vision, making changes on the fly, and seeing a final product. In many cases, it’s a final product you couldn’t have predicted when you started. That’s what makes drawing – for children and adults alike – so magical.

Not all teachers are like Riesa, though. I grew up with the same fondness for art that my daughter has. When I was around Olivia’s age, my third grade art teacher, Miss Scheifer, assigned us a standard macaroni art project. We simply had to glue raw pasta to a piece of construction paper while she read magazines. There’s no way you can mess that up.

Apparently I did because she gave me a “C” on it. No explanation. Just the C. That didn’t matter much to me, though. After all, this was art. I was sure that I probably did something technically wrong that made this angry woman with her tight ’80s perm give me such a low score. It must be a problem with my technique. The art itself, however, in my very biased opinion, was magnifique!

Seeing all the other pictures hanging around the classroom, I assumed I had to hang mine along with them. I proudly walked up to Miss Scheifer, who’s name I haven’t changed because she’s awful, and asked her what I should do with my wonderful piece of art. She looked up at me from her desk.

I don’t care what you do with it. It’s junk.

I remember my head dropping down as I stared at the picture with it’s big “C” written across the top and macaroni pieces flaking off to the floor. I felt like an idiot. Good ol’ Miss Grumpy Perm went back to reading her Redbook. I shuffled off.

A part of me wants to say that her words didn’t affect me. After all, this was the 1980s. According to many, I was supposedly lucky to not be coddled by teachers just like these kids of today. Yeah. Lucky me. I continued to draw and I turned out OK.

picasoWell, maybe not, considering that I’m 39 and it’s still on my mind enough to pop up in this post. She did have an effect on me. I realize that. Maybe it didn’t completely extinguish my spirit, but it definitely introduced self-doubt and the understanding that this activity which I do for myself could face harsh judgment when viewed by others.

I don’t want Olivia to ever have to deal with a Miss Scheifer in her life. I want her to believe that she’s the best artist on Earth. Why? Because she is. Art is subjective. There’s no right or wrong. Every time she goes out and creates something new, it’s perfect because she did it. As long as she’s proud, I’m proud.

I’m sure there are some people out there who think that’s irresponsible. I know the question. What about when she grows up and thinks she’s a great artist and does her first exhibit and people hate it? Aren’t you not preparing her for that?

No. No, I’m not. She’s eight.

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, I’m going to encourage her to create paintings for us to hang up until the walls are creaking from the weight. She’s the greatest artist in the world and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure she always believes it.