Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
Recently, my four and five year old grandchildren were drawing with the company of their 17 year old aunt. All three were sprawled on the kitchen floor with markers and crayons scattered all around them. I love seeing kids – of all ages – engaged in this kind of activity, so I didn’t mind having to navigate the obstacle course they created through my kitchen.
What was interesting was that while the four year old was content to color and scribble and just enjoy the activity, the five year old had a goal in mind of exactly how she wanted this project to turn out. She began directing the more experienced hands of her aunt to draw family members that were recognizable. It got me to thinking about art, and the words of Picasso.
Some of my favorite pieces are artwork that my children did when they were young. There is just something so free about how they create that now in middle age I am trying to turn back to. While I greatly admire the skill of artists that can execute a totally accurate rendition of a person or a scene, I honestly don’t really see the point…isn’t that what cameras are for? But to draw out the mood, the real essence of the feelings and the truths, that is my ultimate goal as an artist. As Aristotle put it, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
I think somehow that children have a clearer connection between their inner spirits and what flows out in their arts. They don’t yet have all the inhibitions that seem to appear as they grow older, that wall that grows between the inner person and the outer appearance. Does that happen naturally, or is that something we impose on them? Do we train children to stifle their creativity, to fit into expected molds? What is the price of that loss?
For me personally, it is something I am working to restore. After all, if Christ Himself tells us to be like little children because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them, then surely it is a child’s spirit in art that will be the truest expression of the most important realities and truths. I am trying to focus more on the process and flow than than the perfect unattainable result. I contemplate the message, the mood, more than the technique. These are challenges for me as I develop not only as an artist, but as an individual.
As I grow in this, I am beginning to appreciate the art of others differently as well. My tastes have broadened. I didn’t use to appreciate abstract art across the board, but now I run across a piece now and then that seems to make a mysterious connection with my soul. It is a soul speak that defies other expression. That is the purpose of art, to do what words cannot, what a camera cannot. The best of art is far more than technical skill. The best of art touches our souls.