“You never know when you are making a memory.” Rickie Lee Jones
We interact with others every day. When we leave their presence, what type of memories remain in our wake? Did we build someone up or tear them down? Children are greatly impacted by the choices of adults.
Sharing moments of creativity with a child offers opportunities to make good memories. However caution is needed. Resist the urge to redirect, correct. Rather encourage open-ended artistic activity by inviting the child to explain any perceived oddities in their work.
Some years ago, I was introducing the use of pastels to a class of 2nd graders. Our subject matter was a landscape of their choice. When work began the students seemed to become part of an alien collective. As if with one mind they depicted variations of the same scene. Art teachers and parents know it well – a symmetrical arrangement of trees, flowers and houses sitting neatly on a flat strip of grass. Up above lies a blue sky, white clouds and a partially drawn yellow sun creasing a corner of the paper. Sigh. Not one of my better lesson plans.
Then I observed one student zealously coloring his sky with layers of green, yellow and gray pastels. Using both hands he aggressively blended the mass of color together. Covering most of the paper, the sickly-green sky engulfed the small tract of land. I had to resist the urge to offer my typical art teacher leading questions.
Mmmm…Would blue be a better color choice for the sky? What other objects can you see in the sky? What could you do to the picture so we can see more of the land and trees? Oh no! Had I become part of the “collective?”
Instead I simply waited until the dust settled and quietly said 5 words that evoked a shared memory:
“Tell me about your art.”
“A bad storm is coming.” was his simple reply. Nothing else was added.
And I totally “got it.” About a year earlier, Mother’s Day 2008, a series of tornados had roared through Georgia. A F2 hit our town ripping off roofs, toppling hundreds of majestic pines and effectively changing the landscape in many areas.
In this child’s mind the sky was monstrous, the land insignificant.
“Wow! You are so right. Good job! You are a very good artist.” My sincere commendation brought a crooked smile to his little face now covered with green smudges.
Today, whenever tornadic activity threatens, I stare nervously at a dark greenish grey sky and think about the child who instinctively knew that “art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” (Edgar Degas) I hope that his lasting memory of me is the art teacher who encouraged his unique creativity.
As explained in About The Blog I stopped teaching a couple years ago. Recently, I gave away boxes of “gently used” art supplies to neighborhood kids.
“Ooo! Thank you Miss. Denise! What should I make?” they asked me.
“Anything you want. Remember – you are the artist.”
I don’t know what they did with the supplies. But each box contained enough art materials to cook-up a good batch of memories.
Stick around. Comment often. Memories are shared here. And more memories are yet to be made.