Each year one of my many annual goals is to paint at least four new paintings (see right side panel for the last two years’ results). Last year my paintings took on a dramatically different direction thanks to my four-year-old son. From what his pediatrician says, his drawings are a bit advanced for his age but by no means does this mean he is a child prodigy.
Still, his drawings of people capture my imaginations. Through his eyes I see that paintings of people don’t need all the details of Rembrandt or Jan Vermeer van Delft to communicate. There’s also innocence with mixing paint directly on the canvas that he really enjoys. Since he lacks complete understanding of Joseph Alber’s interaction of colors, he doesn’t realize that all colors fade to gray if you’re not careful. And yet, gray can be a lovely background.
Happy accidents occurred and enhanced the experience of painting–a child’s approach to painting; having fun. It’s why I pursued the arts in high school and later at the university. Yet, there is a discipline to making art.
The first step to making art is designating time to produce it and committing to the task. Many of my former classmates from the university “played” and are currently busy with life and other matters of consequence. In the small book Art & Fear David Bayles and Ted Orland discuss this topic and offer a lucid observation–many art students pursue art making merely to achieve a degree and hang a senior art exhibit. In a recent essay, David Hollander states the same observation (regarding poets and writers): “The goal is not to get a degree.” The goal of art making is to share your individual vision and that takes a life of discipline.
Last summer I read about some recently uncovered Pollack paintings (“Is This a Real Jackson Pollock?” May 29, 2005, Sunday by Randy Kennedy). I got goose pimples with excitement. Could it be true? Are there really undiscovered Pollock paintings? I was giddy as I read the article in The New York Times.
I wanted to spill paint everywhere. My son thought it was quite an exciting idea too. However, once the paint hit the canvas he had the urge to mix the paint into a gray soup. I compromised and let him work the backgrounds as I handled the main subject; copper creatures of imagination.
Some fathers, I am sure, have other ways of engaging their children in activity like trips to the park, hikes in the mountains or visits to apple festivals. I do all those things as well, but somehow making art with my four-year-old expressionist seems for more fulfilling.
During Colonial America, it is purported that children began practicing the trade of their father around the age of five. Meaning that if the father were a merchant then the son would accompany his father to the shop and be useful for one day he would be in charge of the family business. The son would even wear similar wardrobe of his father (i.e. a blacksmith’s son dressed like his father and a farmer’s son dressed like his father).
So, if you see a father and son with black bandanas wrapped around their skulls, wearing paint splattered jeans, and spilling paint on canvases to loudly played ska tunes–that would be us making art and making memories.
I don’t know if I’ll continue the spill and splatter approach to painting. If I do it will have to be refined quite a bit. My goal is still to produce a minimum of four paintings by the end of the year.