I was a serious and perhaps slightly tedious small child. I spent long hours drawing and colouring, making endless crafty items out of paper and pipe cleaners, fashioning people out of toilet rolls with my sister, devouring craft kits for breakfast,and begging for art materials for birthdays and Christmas.
Before I had children, I spent a long time considering how they would not be just like me, and it was important to remember that they would have their own interests and strengths….But I never ever considered that they wouldn’t want to draw.
I blithely assumed that as soon as they were able to hold a crayon, they would be fascinated by it, and would want to do nothing else. So of course, just to shake me up, I was blessed with two determined little physical girls. Little climbers. Little walkers. Fast (if graceless) runners, who would be off and halfway up the nearest tree before I could say, “Anyone fancy doing some potato printing?… Shall I get out the tissue paper?…No?”
I have dealt with this in various ways. The main one – not recommended – being to placate myself by buying endless quantities of art materials. I have been storing these materials in a series of plastic boxes in the kitchen. I don’t claim it’s rational. I’m just reporting what I do. Another being
torturing myself gaining inspiration by reading various blogs written by people about encouraging play and artistic activity. There are hundreds of these blogs, and many of them are every bit as smug and joyless as you might imagine. Two of the more approachable, and more inspiring ones for me are The Imagination Tree, and the Artful Parent.
So I bought an easel for the girls (ok, it was really for me). I wondered if shaking it up a bit might encourage them to draw a bit more. And I suddenly remembered that on the Artful Parent, Jean had written about creating drawing prompts: essentially creating a ‘starting point’ on a chalkboard that her children could find and complete. So, almost as an afterthought, one day I drew an enormous plate on the whiteboard of our easel, and wrote, ‘What’s for lunch?’ underneath.
The next morning, India’s reaction was immediate. “What that say?” she demanded. “It says ‘what’s for lunch’.” “Oh.” And she jumped off her chair, demanded a pen, and began swirling it around in circles. “Pancakes!” she cried, happily. It might have been the first time she made marks that actually represented something. It was amazing. So since then, I’ve been creating invitations to draw as often as I can think of them or get a moment to draw something. Rosa has joined in too. And it’s been immensely fun.
This one was more fun for me to draw than for the girls to complete, but you can see above how Rosa started to draw snowflake stickers on the mirror above the fire, and India was scribbling I think to represent fairy lights at the window.
This one was very popular. The girls always love it when I draw them (probably the most successful invitation to draw to date, which I inevitably didn’t photograph, was when I drew a cartoon India and Rosa in crowns, vests and knickers, with an instruction to draw the princesses’ pretty dresses). And since this was just after Christmas, they enjoyed talking about their presents, and which ones they could include.Above you can see how Rosa divided up the floorspace, before drawing her own presents (a barbie, and a small plastic horse, which I am reliably informed that Father Christmas got from the 99p shop), and drawing Persephone’s Noah’s ark and toy frog. India took a more impressionistic approach to the board, adding a spider to Rosa’s toys (“MUMMY! India has drawn a spider but I didn’t get a spider for Christmas!”) and then drawing what I think is meant to be her treasured ‘Belle doll’.
I don’t know if it was the idea or the quality of the execution, but this one totally failed to grab them. They both looked at it over breakfast, and each declared morosely, “That doesn’t look like a bed, Mummy.” Then they ignored it steadfastly.
These photos are just the tip of the iceberg. Other invitations have included ‘Who’s at the door?’, ‘What’s in the present?’, ‘What’s outside the window?’, ‘decorate the cake’, and more. It has become something of a game with Oli, too, who is totally confused by any kind of artistic activity, and feels that some kind of unprecedented creative explosion is happening in his kitchen, and doesn’t quite know what to make of it.
So there we have it. A small diversion from the house. Only linked to the house, actually, by the fact that I am a bit obsessed by blackboard paint. So obsessed that I am continuously thinking of places I could use it, and hence feel a bit paralysed when it comes to actually deciding what I should paint. So far I have decided to paint the surface of the girls’ craft table, at least two of the walls in the kitchen, one of the walls in the hall, and the door that leads down into the cellar. Perhaps narrowing these options down somewhat could be the topic of another post…
Until then, do let me know if you’ve done anything similar to this. Or if you try it and enjoy it.