Every time I am back in my childhood home, there are always two things that I overlook; the photos and the art on the wall. It’s not that I don’t see them, but rather I’m surprised when visitors point them out; they seem so embedded in the fabric of our home that they don’t stand out.
Part of me was curious if I could find any indicators in my past childhood artwork for what I became today (whatever I am now). I feel that the furthest back that I can draw direct and tangible connections to what I do now as a designer is back to high school architecture or college studio courses. I wasn’t really sure what to look for beyond that. Perhaps I could’ve found indicators for underlying ways of thinking or behaviors. Again, how does one know what to look for in these? (some of which I remember being forced to do).
I was surprised by the disparate stories I was able to recall with looking on these pieces; who my instructor was, distinct places I remember accidentally drawing outside of the lines, and where I ran out of paint but didn’t feel like standing up to go get more of the same color.
A Few Paintings Here and There
I remember taking painting classes where a teach would do a follow-along painting; starting with a shape on her canvas and then giving everyone a chance to try to copy the shape on their own individual canvases. It seems so simple when you break it down into different steps but it would never end up looking quite like the teacher’s.
Not sure what I was thinking here but here is a mask that I made. The lopsided ‘mouth’ was not intentional; I distinctly remember proudly taking a step back when I thought I was done only to realize that the mouth was completely uncentered. The eyes and nose area is a good example of not staying in the lines. I believe I spent 20 minutes making this.
I can clearly remember a few things about this painting of a rooster. First, is the brown horizontal post; I had started to fill in more paint above the post after I realized it wasn’t straight or horizontal at all only to realize that I had run out of brown paint and class was over. I also remember realizing my ‘mistake’ of using the same red for the rooster and the background. Although now that I look at it, I rather like how the shape of the head disappears and is only held together by the seemingly floating beak to define the edge of the roster’s head.
The best part is that there is also an accompanying rooster sculpture (which I’m now realizing is very prominently on display in the living room). I forgot that these two were actually a set. I don’t remember the specific “assignment” here but I’m rather surprised by how much they match.
My favorite piece is also the oldest one. It’s called “Circles.” Who knew that one of my first fierce creative endeavors in my life would be a block print? (little did I know then that I would later switch out of my university’s communication design program) I clearly remember attempting to recreate sheet music; the lines intersecting with dots (I also did NOT become a musician later in life).
One indication for the future that I can find here is the documentation of process and iteration. From the paper sketch (top), to the pressed foam print (middle), to the final print (bottom), I love the way that we kept all three. Bless my preschool teacher who recognized the initial sketch as important as the final product.
Finally, I love inconsistencies that come through in the final print: how the paint is dense in the middle but lighter on the top and bottom, the specks of untouched paper that shine through, and the wavering edge that borders it all. These are many quiet qualities that I love absorbing today.
Further readings on childhood art:
“A self-directed, open-source artist residency to empower and inspire artists who are also mothers.”
Lenka Clayton founded this residency and some of the pieces she made such as “63 Objects From My Taken from my Son’s Mouth” are brilliant and make the think about “childhood art” and storytelling through objects.
So hard to not click this link when I saw it after a quick google search on childhood art.
“The correct answer is to make the art, bestow it upon someone to behold and admire for a while, and then toss it. It makes the right tribute to beauty and it’s the correct moral stance toward the more ephemeral qualities of childhood.
Throwing it away actually does everyone a favor. It completes the artistic life cycle, allowing ephemera to be just that: actually ephemeral. Childhood is like that, too—or that’s how parents ought to think about it. Kids thrash about until a more recognizable self takes hold. Then they turn their attention toward preserving that developing self. The paperwork they produce along the way is mostly a means to that end.”
This last article from the Atlantic is also related to one of my favorite book series called Object Lessons. Sign up to stay up to speed for my future post with some book reviews and recommendation.