March 2, 2011

Proud as Punch

A portrait I once did of Aunt Genocide
I started really getting serious about painting when I was about fifteen years old.  I had always loved to make a big mess out of crayons and paints, and always sort of thought I was alright at making an attractive picture.  But when I was a teenager I began to really consider it an important part of who I was.

After being thoroughly indoctrinated by one of my community college professors, I decided to transfer to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  I swooped down on Chicago, scholarship in hand, art shows under my belt, and chalk full of confidence.  Then the Dean of the school delivered an address to us transfer students.  I will never forget that speech.

"Less than one percent of you will ever be able to make your career as an artist.  You will have to scrape by, doing things you might hate, or by letting go of your artistic principles to work in advertising or other media... but you won't make a career as an artist.  Being an artist is the hardest thing you can be, and the chances that it's what you WILL be is so slim... so I say this- If you can do something else, ANYTHING else, do that instead.  But if there is nothing else you can be, if no matter what you will always be striving to create something true and wonderful, then be an artist.  But if you can do anything else at all... do that."

I remembered that speech every day.  Every time I left a class feeling disgusted with my classmates, or my professors, or even with myself, I remembered that speech.  And eventually, I dropped out of art school.
Our Mary Poppins and two coloring grublings

That said, I'm still an artist.  And I still consider it an important part of who I am.

And of course, as a parent, I have high hopes for my children.  I have dreams of them becoming great painters and sculptors, having their own retrospectives at the MCA, creating disturbing representations of their childhoods that I can feel publicly awkward about.  So it's not at all a surprise that I would let my kids play with (child safe) art supplies.

What I did find surprising, believe it or not, was DD's affinity for it.  That child LOVES to draw!  So much, in fact, that for the last few days it's all she's wanted to do.  She made yesterday fairly hellish for Our Mary Poppins, refusing to put down the crayons even for a minute- even to eat.  She just wanted to draw and draw and draw.

She completed about four drawings, such as they are.  SI isn't quite so into it as DD, but still enjoys it a great deal.  How much?  If you can imagine, I actually managed to mop my floors today.  Because my children were content to sit quietly in their chairs, coloring with crayons, for over an HOUR.  I made them stop when I realized it was nap time.  And DD did not relinquish her crayons quietly.

The cause of one of the proudest moments of my life
Already, I'm putting together a mental list of everything I need to get my children to keep their creative juices going.  A two sided child easel, a bucket of sidewalk chalk, finger paints, gigantic rolls of paper...  But that's just the tip of the iceberg.  I'll be getting them fabric markers and tie-dyes, face paints and playdough... not to mention the heaps of watercolors I'm sure they'll go through.  I'll be cleaning out the children's section of my favorite art supply store.

And of course, I'll be hanging up my daughters' drawings.

I'm the proudest mommy you ever saw- DD LOVES to make art!  She LOVES to color!  She doesn't want to do anything else!

My imagination is flooded with figures of the amount I need to put away for art school, which of the Chicago charter art schools she'd be happiest in, how I'll proudly put her paintings up all over my home for the rest of my life...

I know.  I'm getting ahead of myself.  My daughters are seventeen months old, not years old.  Drawing is still new and exciting, and the novelty will probably wane.  Something else will come along.

After all, two weeks ago DD was all about building with blocks, and it was M who was proud as a peacock.  He's a structural engineer, and seeing her carefully create stacks and stacks of colorful foam blocks- six, eight, ten blocks high- filled him with the sense of genetic accomplishment and joy that is the bread and butter of parental success.
The cause of one of the proudest moments of my life

And then there are those morning when all SI wants to do is sing in harmony with me- which makes me feel happy and proud and imagine SI onstage at the Met, playing Mimi or Tamiri.  Or even with a guitar in hand, sitting onstage in a dimly lit coffee shop, singing folk ballads.

I can't help myself but be proud to bursting of these little toddler accomplishments.  Every success of theirs is not only my success as a parent, but also my success in that I can see the potential of my own dreams, my own hopes, shining so clearly in my children.

I don't know what they might be when they grow up- artists, musicians, architects... But no matter what they are, I am sure I will always be proud of them.  I will always think them the most brilliant and talented of children, and I will always be sure that their potential is ever so much broader than mine- that they can accomplish any feat.

They have unlimited potential, those grublings of mine.  And I am prouder of them than I know how to say.


  1. Drawing & sculpting & building & singing are important and fun for all children.
    Your babies are artists and architects and musicians right now!

  2. This is a great post! I feel the same way anytime my kids do something new. I'm just sure my children are the smartest, most talented kids in the world!! Thanks for the visit and follow, I've added you too! p.s. did your girls like raisins?

  3. I think they're great! You're an awesome mom. My 3 yr old twins did this same type of drawing all over their bedroom walls and it spilled into the hallway lol. I have since decided to paint a chalkboard area on their wall in their bedroom. You know what they say... If you can't beat'em...



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