By Jessica Wall
Picasso really nailed it here. As adults we’re often inhibited by the expectation that what we make should be good in order to be worth anything; that it needs to be aesthetically interesting or different than everything else out there. We live under the assumption that the creative process should lead to something beautiful; a tangible end product that represents or conveys our innermost feelings and passions rather than simply embracing it as a form of self-expression through which we may find clarity and reflection. All too often we second-guess our talents and ourselves- measuring ourselves against one another and failing under the contention that our work simply isn’t good enough.
Children do not do this.
Children are unique in their curiosity and wonder about the world. They do not feel as if they need to adapt to society’s ideas of talent or beauty, but rather they are constantly seeking out new ways to express themselves- on their own terms. They enjoy the artistic process as there are no perceptions of outside expectations and limitations. They feel it. They smile, maybe even laugh. They live in the moment with no reservations and self-doubt. Creating a tangible piece of artwork is not simply the end result of their effort. It is an outlet for them to enjoy something that brings them sheer joy.
To me, it seems that we could learn a lot by simply watching how our children view and interact with the world around them. I believe that our children are some of the greatest teachers we will ever encounter. If we only stopped to look at life as it is, rather than setting ourselves up for the disappointment that accompanies our perceptions of what we should be, we could be significantly happier. This applies to not only an art project, but clearly life in general. By emulating our children and truly living for the present, without apprehension- or the presumption that we need to live up to someone else’s standards, we open ourselves up for a beautiful existence. This truth can reveal itself in any capacity, we just need to be open and receptive to those opportunities that often present themselves.
Inspired by something I saw on the internet, I wanted to do a unique canvas art project with my daughter. I wanted us to be able to create something beautiful together that would capture her vision (at 2 years old), and preserve it forever. I started with two blank canvases (I got a two-pack at Michael’s using a 40% off coupon so it was less than $10) and created a geometric shape with painter’s tape, allowing her to show me where we should put the tape down. Afterwards, I put out an array of paints for her to choose from and let her paint her heart out. No rules, no reservations. Most of all, no expectations. She especially enjoyed squeezing the different paints out onto the canvases, and then using the brushes to create streaks and patterns. I encouraged her to experiment with different brushes and colors, and helped her only when she asked for it. It was just as much fun for me to watch her paint, as it was for her to paint, as it was an opportunity for me to see the world through the abstract and unassuming lens of a 2 year old.
After the paint was dry we slowly peeled back the strips of tape we laid in the beginning, revealing a unique geometric design. I later had to go back and paint over the stripes with white paint (because the paint bled under the tape-we used painter’s tape for reference), but the integrity of the design was not compromised.