Thursday, April 10, 2008


Today's field trip was to the High Museum of Art. They had both a spring break program and a "Toddler Thursday" program. I'd been told that "toddler" could easily include Pook, so we headed down. The boys were thrilled to ride MARTA, our rapid transit. They even got to swipe their own cards. Whoo hoo!

We first went to the toddler program and were sent to look at Georgia O'Keefe landscapes. The kids were clearly surprised at how simply she painted. I could almost hear them thinking, "I could do that". When we returned, the children were given liquid watercolors (in spill proof tubs) and postcard sized O'Keefe images they could try to copy. I can't find any of her paintings online to include here, or I'd give you some of the boys' art to compare. Pretty awesome if I may say so myself. They could do that.

Since we were in an art museum, we looked at a variety of art along the way. One that struck me was an image made entirely of squiggles like lower case cursive e's. I pointed it out to Pook, showing him that great art doesn't have to be hard to do. I do this often. In The Phantom Tollbooth, the illustrator Jules Feiffer uses a scribbly hand too. I set him to work one morning trying to imitate a picture of mountains from the book.

Squiggles and quick brushstrokes can be a great style. Pook's art is great and he needs to know that many styles can be good. Right now he draws primarily robots and other machinery. He has a great memory for details that most people never even notice. But I worry that he'll get too critical of himself and quit. At his age, most of the kids at the art table are little girls drawing rainbows and lollipop looking trees. The boys aren't drawing much at all. I want him to stick with his art and use it in a career someday.

I used to (BC - before children) paint and draw. But I never found it to be relaxing. I had an image in my mind of the perfect watercolor painting. I'd seen it at an art festival. It was a picture of a maraschino cherry and an ice cube. I'd approached the painting to look closer, believing it was a photo in a series of watercolors. Nope. A watercolor so perfect it looked real. And from then on, it was my goal. My own paintings of water didn't look like water to me. My drawings weren't "right". I wasn't able to accept that a representation of water was fine. Fine for my style. The t-shirts I'd scribble got lots of compliments but I didn't think of them as art. They came to me too easily. Having kids brings a lot of lessons home. I need to learn to believe what I speak.

I always compare my writing to others and need to remember that my writing style is fine too. A certain friend, who shall only be known as HMW, read a poem of mine, submitted to the Northern Lights or some such poetry contest in our high school, and called it "trite". (Can you tell that I never dwell on things like this, and I'm quick to remember only the positive highlights of high school?) Now, it is possible that the poem was trite. But she said so! (She did not know it was mine, to excuse her just a little.) The poem began:

I'd love to taste a cloud
Soft and white like soft ice cream
something something cotton candy
something something something.

With a start like that, how could it possibly have been trite?

So now, here I am, writing for the world to read, and I'm trying to stop being so critical of my own style. I don't use phrases like: "(the word) "blog" is just so amorphous." I'd say: I don't really like the word "blog" much. "Amorphous" belongs to another friend who has her own style and I know that it doesn't work for me. But I enjoy reading more formal writing so I set it as a goal once upon a time. Must change goal.


  1. Ouch. I was definitely less diplomatic in high school. Sorry about that. Although as you rightly note, I never would have said it if I'd know it was yours. And maybe I shouldn't have said it at all. But In any case, if I remember correctly, the poem made it into the literary magazine anyway. So what did I know? And I, for one, was happy to see it there because it was yours, and also because it was quite possibly the only poem in the entire publication not full of teen angst and melodrama.

  2. I do remember "trite" being a huge part of your vocabulary for a while. I believe you were working on your image as worldly and sophisticated, which, in an Indianapolis high school, is tough to do. And, I'd think less of you if you had censored yourself because you knew I was the author.

  3. Perhaps. Although I think it was less about an image I was trying to project, and more about anger at having been forced to move there in the first place. I was interested in sending the message that I wasn't from there and while you could force me to go there, you couldn't make me stay. And I got out of there as fast as I could. But it is, I think, telling that while I still keep in touch with friends from my other high school and from college, I correspond with a far greater number from our school. But because of the circumstances through which I arrived there, I will never, I think, identify with it in the same way I identify with some of the other places I've lived.