Now I personally have no talent when you give me a pencil or a paintbrush. I've dabbled in the past, but one of my largest regrets is that I don't have whatever it is that artists are born with that makes them great. It stung even more when I was a teenager because my best friend in high school had that natural ability, and I would spend hours just watching her scratch at a piece of paper, and end up creating something amazing. One of her murals is still being used to decorate a telegraph pole not far from my home, and I'm always proud to be able to say I know the person who created something so beautiful at the young age of 17. My friend has also been lucky enough to turn her talent into a career for herself, so she gets to spend every day making beauty. What more could a person ask for?
One of my wishes for Miss K is the ability to create such beauty. I know natural talent is something you can't force, but you can encourage and nurture even the smallest glimmer of ability, to help turn it into something amazing. Which is why Miss K picked up her first paintbrush at the tender age of 5 months.
An artist in the making, complete with paint smudges on the face.
I've always encouraged Miss K to love art, and to this day it's one of the only times I can get her to sit still for more than 2 minutes at a time. One of her favourite pastimes is when I help her discover a new way to create pictures. She's done marbling, worked with washi tape, made collages out of leaves and sticks, and has a collection of pens and pencils that any child would envy (with thanks in no small part to the amount of stationery mum brings home from work on a daily basis). This love of creating has helped her greatly at kindergarten, and I'm always being sent home huge bundles of art projects that she's completed while I'm at work.
This is great for me, in several respects. Mainly because I get a record of what Miss K does while I'm off being an adult, but also because it shows me that art is just as important to Miss K's kindergarten teacher as it is to me. It's such an important part of Miss K's education I've already selected her future schools based on their attention to art education in relation to all other areas of their learning framework.
Miss K's marble art still sits on our fridge.
Part of my desire to encourage her creativity comes from all the setbacks Miss K has had in her short four years. Developmentally she always seemed to be at a disadvantage, lagging 6 months behind every other child we ever saw. Giving her this outlet gave her a chance to just be like every other kid, even for just a few minutes. When she was drawing, it didn't matter that her eyesight wasn't brilliant, that she couldn't talk the way she was meant to, you wouldn't even know she had the attention span of a gnat when she sat down to draw. All that mattered was the making. It gave her a chance to feel pride, and accomplishment when she completed a picture. It also helped with her development. Learning how to hold a pencil gave her fine motor skills a healthy workout, teaching her how to name the parts of the body she had just drawn helped with her language skills, and her cognitive skills were improved too, which is super important. Art for children is an education in and of itself, and one where they don't even realise they are constantly learning.
One of Miss K's most recent works of art tell me I made the right decision. One day we were slobbing around the house and mum gave her a giant art folio to scribble in. The week previously Miss K had been learning about the ocean in kindergarten, so she used the knowledge she had gained in her kindergarten class to draw me a picture of a shark.
Miss K's version of a shark. It kind of looks a bit like the Family Guy version of the shark from Jaws, but I love him anyway...
This was a major step for Miss K because before then, we had no idea whether she was gaining anything from her time at kindergarten, because she is so tight lipped about what goes on when I'm not around. But for the first time she wanted to share part of her that I never get to see, and she did it with art. As you can see that picture has pride of place on a wall in our lounge room, and every time I look at it I smile. It's still definitely a drawing done by a four year old, and I bet if I hadn't told you it was a shark you'd guess a slug or just random scribbles, but knowing this little girl as I do, I can see a perfect little shark right there on my wall.
And I think that is the most important part of art, for me anyway. A lot of people don't realise this, but art is a form of communication not unlike music. You take your heart and soul and pour it onto a canvas, or a piece of paper, and you are left with a permanent record of yourself. You may have drawn a tree, or a person, or written a song about a hamburger, but there is always a little piece of you in everything you create. For someone like Miss K who still struggles to put most of her thoughts into words, this is an absolutely vital outlet. We've used drawings to help discover her feelings, find out what's making her happy, what's making her grumpy, and I've even used it to let her know when I'm happy or grumpy. We've fought through art, we've laughed through art, and we've grown closer through art, which sounds incredibly crunchy but I swear it's the truth.
This post has been brought to you today in collaboration with Invaluable. Invaluable is an advocate of all forms of art, whether it be classic fine art or youth paintings.