Monday, July 26, 2010

Family Artists Dates

Writing is just something I've come to known as my art form but most recently I've learned it's not the only art form that I enjoy. I happen to be much better at writing than most other types of mediums but nonetheless creating with my hands feels really good. Especially since writing a book of 90,000 words took so long, I found that doing a simple art project felt like a good accomplishment.

I learned to incorporate art very early into our family. In fact, the girls were 10 months old and still in high chairs when I decided to quit working full-time and I have video of using ketchup as paint on their high chair trays. That's how long we've been creating in the house. But, it's only been the last two years or so when I've started joining in, making their art time my art time as well.

If they are painting, I try to paint, too. If they are writing, I write, too.
These family art dates -- much like the idea behind Julia Cameron's artists dates -- are exactly what drives my creativity every single week. Without those simple, artistic moments, I would have nothing to offer. I live for those dates of making mini books, cutting paper and doing collages. I get some of my more creative ideas during these projects. I guess my muse lives amongst crayons and construction paper, sometimes.

To make the most of our artist dates, I follow these simple guidelines:

1. Plan Ahead -- Art is best when it comes natural but it's best to plan ahead and have some of the best art materials laying around so that we can do just about whatever we want when we're inspired.

Go with the flow -- Sometimes our art projects last two minutes, sometimes they last an hour. I have no expectations, no rules, no final product in mind. We just do it and the act of creating is what brings smiles to our faces. Everything they do is good enough. They are good enough.

Celebrate it all -- Sometimes a paper only has two lines on it. Celebrate that. Sometimes the googly eyes are all off. That's just fine. It's art. It's not fine art. It's supposed to be a fun process, not a final process.

Steal other ideas -- I steal so many ideas from my very good friend Jean at the Artful Parent, who I often wish I was neighbors with. I know our girls would just be the best of friends as would she and I. Pretty much most of her ideas, we take on around our house. But, there are so many other great Web sites with great family art ideas. There's not enough hours to do them all.

Make Art Every Day -- If it doesn't happen in the morning, we fit it in before or after dinner or just before bed. We get pretty cranky around these parts if we don't do an art project. It's how we go quiet together, as a family.

Use imagination -- The best piece of advice I ever read was in the girls first year, thanks to Jean, told me not to pigeon hole my girls art work. I don't tell them to draw anything, I don't tell them what I think their art looks like and I don't show them how to draw anything. Well, not much. By doing this, there is no right and wrong and they've grown by leaps and bounds under their own creativity, not mine. The result is that I have become so much more creative learning from their freedom and curiosity.

For a while, Dan, my husband, would get anxious during art projects. He wasn't accustomed to the messiness and just letting it go like I was. It does take a bit of restraint to just let them make a mess and not worry about it. That's where my spirituality comes into play and being mindful of the beauty of seeing two little girls' imaginations run wild.

In the picture above, Dan had created a maze for the girls with sidewalk chalk. It was a rare moment to draw something for them but they turned that maze into so much more -- a Zoo, where wild animals lived and a store, I think.

Sometimes we teach them a thing or two. But, mostly, we're the students learning how to shed the rules and just be artists even when our instinct is to say we're not good enough.

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