As little as I know about art, I know this: Art is subjective. If the kid believes it’s “art,” who am I to say otherwise?
If you are now, or have ever been, the parent of a toddler, you know exactly why “art” is in quotes. While these mini-masterpieces take many shapes and forms, few of them are what one might call gallery-ready.
These are the nine phases we go through with our toddler “art.”
1. The Prodigy
It all started when our little geniuses figured out how to hold a crayon properly in their hand… Amazing! With tongues splayed out the side of their mouth, contact was thoughtfully made with the paper. Incredible! Just like that, the first “masterpiece” was created. We cherished that first gem. It got pride of placement on the fridge and ample discussion of its many artistic merits. Should we start saving now for art school?
2. On A Roll
Having hit a stride, they master the effect of not just one, but every color in the box being scribbled across the page. Page after page. After page. Lots of scribbles. Lots of pages. Lots of praise—perhaps too much. The piles begin..
3. Medium Master
Moving on from crayons, they discover colored pencils, colored pens, markers (washable, if you’re lucky; Sharpies if you did something bad in a previous life), stamps, stickers, feathers, sticks, string, glue, and if you did something really bad in a previous life, glitter. Because each one is new and different, you feel inclined to love and cherish each one. The piles continue.
4. The Eye of the Beholder
You see a page that looks like someone was trying to get a dried-out pen to work; they see a full story: characters, plot-line, back story. You say it’s too bad that someone spilled some water on it. They correct you; that is how it is meant to look. Uhhh, sure. Whatever you say, kid. We start to eye the piles suspiciously.
5. Magic Eye
Oh wow, that person actually looks like a person. Well, if people had their arms and legs coming right out of their heads. All of a sudden the scribbles have morphed into actual pictures that we can decipher and understand. And there are letters (trying to) spell something! Resume pile accumulation.
6. Grand Ambitions
As each piece is proudly presented, we think about all the things we could do.
Start the checklist:
– We will date and record the intricate description on the back of each work of art, lest we forget that the black squiggle is the cat, the purple squiggle is the baby, and the green line is the lake that ate the monkeys.
– We will collect them in folders/binders, sorted by color/medium/theme.
– We will take a picture of each one, creating a catalog of files on our computer.
– We will upload them to a collage website and make a picture which uses all of them. Such a creative idea, no wonder the kid is so talented.
– We will pick our 10 favorites and create a collage on their wall in various “artsy” vintage frames. Eventually… when there are 10 we think are worthy of a frame.
– We will place our favorites in a portfolio to help preserve them for a very special graduation/wedding gift.
7. Reality Bites
Eventually we glance awkwardly at the various piles accumulating in our homes of the “art” that is waiting to be photographed/scanned/filed/organized/framed/packed away.
Slowly we come to the realization that our ambitions may never see the light of day. And if we continue to let these piles of artwork grow, we also may never see the light of day.
8. Give it away, give it away now
Grandparents make great recipients (seriously, they eat that shit up). Also friends, neighbors, the crossing guard, doorman, the UPS delivery guy—anyone who might actually take some of this stuff off your hands.
Something’s gotta give. If we’re willing to accept that we might not ever get around to that list of ambitions, we must somehow eliminate the piles. Cue the list of lies we tell our kids when their “art” goes missing. As long as we have a few left for them to find in an attic one day many years from now, we’ll be fine.
Grant us the serenity to accept the “art” we cannot trash, the courage to trash the “art” we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Lindsey Barnes is a contributing writer to Kveller and Kiddish magazine.