My mom was down visiting from Manitoulin Island this past week, so we decided to put her considerable creativity to work in planning my youngest son’s sixth birthday party.
She decided to account for the distractibility of small boys by doing an art project that switched gears frequently. She had them place two pieces of tape across their canvases, creating four quadrants. In the first one, she had them paint any colours they wanted – no pictures, just colours. In the second, she had them glue things like buttons, puff balls, and glass beads. In the third, she drew their initials in balloon letters and had them add colour with markers, or paints, or whatever. In the fourth, she had them draw shapes with stencils.
The results (even from the kids who actually followed instructions) were wildly unique, and all the boys were genuinely pleased with their masterpieces, which they took home instead of loot bags. The parents seemed to like them too, and more than one expressed how pleased they were to be taking something home other than a bag of candy and throwaway toys.
The next day, my mom turned her talents to creating a mural on our hallway wall. She drew a family vine (because our adoptive / foster / birth / step / homestay / uncategorizable family completely defies the simplicity of a family tree). It has a thicket of branches growing closely together and intertwining, all drawn in bronzes and greens and gold on a sky blue background. Our next step is to hang pictures of our crazy family like fruit in the branches.
As she left yesterday, we gave her the chapbook of kids’ art that we made as Christmas presents (yes, I know it’s March) for all the grandparents, and we had a good chat about how one of art’s many gifts is that it allows us to live more uniquely. Art makes the places we live and the things we do belong uniquely to us in deeper ways than our mass produced culture generally permits. It gives us a sense of rootedness, of home, of belonging.
As we were talking through these ideas, I realized that my feet were up on a coffee table that had been made by my wife’s grandfather, that the mantlepiece had been built by a friend, that the pictures on the walls had been taken by my own camera, that the curtains had been sewn by my wife, that there were dozens of books on the shelf written by people I knew… and you get the idea. The art created by our family and friends and community has made our home unique.
None of this art has much monetary value, of course, and much of it is closer to artisan work than it is to fine art. But its value isn’t in what a collector would pay for it or in how an art historian would define it. Its value comes from how it expresses the uniqueness of our life together as a family, with all our varied interests and talents.
Your family’s interests and talents will be different than ours, no doubt, but whatever they are, it’s important to encourage and develop them, to use them in order to make your home uniquely yours. This does probably means turning off the screens more often and doing something creative with the kids, but it doesn’t necessarily mean doing something scary or difficult (my wife is currently colouring from the Mouse Guard Colouring Book with my youngest child right here beside me).
The point isn’t to make great art. The point is to develop your creativity, to express your uniqueness as a family. So get at it.