Tag: painting

Something a Little Different

There’s something magical about trying something new. Last year, my friend’s dad needed some help painting windows for Christmas. We spent long hours painting out in the cold, but it was so much fun. My friend’s dad painted outlines on the windows, and I followed along behind, filling them in. It was like a life sized coloring book had been layered over the windows and doors of various businesses and homes in town.

There were tricks to be learned, of course. Getting the right thickness of paint without dripping paint anywhere, the right order to unpacking and packing things up, always remembering to stir the paint before using it, so many little things that made a big difference. I asked when I was uncertain about things, and my friend’s dad was patient with my questions.

They needed extra help again this year. Today, I spent hours helping paint windows for Christmas. I’ll probably be doing the same for much of next week. I’m really looking forward to it!

Flashback Friday: A Meal for the Eyes

This story was first posted on August 25, 2017. I think that most people hope to leave behind a lasting legacy. However, often our most important work isn’t the kind that is hung in a museum or a palace. I think it would be nice to be able to do both kinds of work.

The artist unsealed the scroll with trembling fingers. It was a summons from the emperor himself. After decades of work, he might finally have a patron. The artist did a little victory dance and grabbed his purse. This called for cake with dinner.

The next morning, he packed up his paints and brushed and canvases. He sent them ahead and asked the messenger to leave them in his new studio. Then he packed up his clothes and books and personal items and cancelled the rest of his lease.

He said goodbye to his neighbors and waited for his ride to the palace. He had no idea what to expect, so he dressed in his nicest clothes. But, he was brought straight to his rooms and served a nice meal. He would meet with the emperor the next morning.

So, the next morning he re-wore his nicest clothes, doing his best to smooth out the wrinkles. He tried to give himself a pep talk. “Stop worrying. This is every artist’s dream. Your paintings will hang in the palace and live on forever. This is the next best thing to immortality. You’ve finally made it.”

A guard escorted him in to see the emperor. The artist bowed. The emperor smiled. “Ah yes.   Welcome. I am impressed with your talent. I think that your paintings are just what I’m looking for.”

“What would you like me to paint?” the artist asked.   “A portrait? I am well-known for my portraits.”

The emperor laughed. “Oh no, that wouldn’t do. I need you to paint food. The tastier looking, the better.”

“Food?” the artist asked. “Like a still life? Would you like me to include some mementos in the picture?”

“No, I think that would be a mistake,” the emperor said. “Just paint food. Bring me the first painting at the end of the week.   If it pleases me, I will have a contract for you to sign.”

“Thank you,” the artist said. He bowed and left.

He spent the next week painting tempting, almost-real food on a blurry background. Melty cheese, crisp toast, and jewel-like berries seemed to float on the surface of the canvas. He was constantly ordering new models for his work from the kitchen, because he kept taking bites of things absent-mindedly as he worked. It was a long week.

The emperor was thrilled with his painting. “It’s perfect,” he said. “Here’s the contract.”

The artist accepted the first scroll from the emperor’s advisor. He signed the non-disclosure agreement, and then he was handed the contract. He started reading through it and then paused. “This is a contract for a chef,” he said. “I’m an artist.”

“Of course you are,” the emperor said. “But you are painting meals, so you are a chef.”

“But they aren’t really meals,” the artist said.   “Even if they’re meals for the eyes, eyes don’t eat.”

“But this isn’t a meal for the eyes,” the emperor said.   “Come with me and bring your painting.”

The artist followed the emperor and his advisor through a maze of hallways. Finally they stopped in front of a large door. The emperor pushed it open. He smiled as a large furry thing rushed forward and leaned against him.

It had black fur and giant eyes as blue as the sky.   And it had a giant mouth full of very sharp teeth. No one else in the room looked at all nervous about the emperor petting the scary furry thing, so the artist tried to be brave. When it came over to sniff at him, he took a deep breath and managed to not run away screaming.

“I think she likes you already,” the emperor said.   “That’s wonderful.   Give her the painting.”

The artist made himself hold out the canvas. The furry thing ripped it away from him and ate it in a few messy bites. It was gone. The thing made a warbling noise, and the emperor clapped his hands.

He turned to the artist. “You see. You’re a chef, and a very good one. If you keep painting this well, I’ll double your salary.”

“Come this way, and we’ll finish the paperwork,” the advisor said. They left the emperor and the furry thing behind and walked down the hall to the empty room.

The artist stared at the contract. Was this the end of his dreams for the next best thing to immortality? Would all of his work be eaten? He looked up at the advisor. “Will I be able to paint other pictures? Pictures that will hang in the palace and not get eaten?”

The advisor smiled. “I’ll add it to your contract. If you paint one meal a week, you will be permitted to paint one official portrait of the emperor each year.”

“Show me where to sign,” the artist said. And when he went back to his rooms he did a little victory dance and ordered a cake from the kitchen. He made sure to sketch it before he ate it.

Art Projects with Children

When you have small children at home and you are trying to practice your art, they will most likely want to practice with you. Unfortunately, small children have a way of breaking your focus and concentration and making terrible messes. So, it’s hard to practice art with them and really get much done at the same time.

So, how do you add children to your art practice? In some ways, this depends on the needs of the child. Small children require more attention, but they get bored with the project much more quickly. Older children might need a prompt and a little bit of instruction, but then you can both work side-by-side with few interruptions.

Some of the art my daughters have created when we paint and draw together

When children are small, it might be a good idea to have some inexpensive art materials on hand so they don’t destroy yours. It takes a while of reminding kids not to smash their brushes into the page before they remember. They also use a lot more paint than they need on their paintings. Especially if you happen to have their favorite color.

Cardboard boxes make nice art desks. A paper plate can be a palette. I dispense the paint so that they don’t use the whole tube. They paint happily for a few minutes. If they’re painting, I usually pause my project and paint with them. When the paint on the plate is gone, we’re done. It goes quickly.

With my older child who loves art, she likes a prompt of what she should draw. She also likes to look over my shoulder and ask questions about what I’m doing and why and how. If I’m sketching something, she may pull out her sketchbook and sketch the same thing and compare pictures.

The young artists in our home

After the painting or sketching or prompt following, or if they’ve completed a project on their own or at school, they all want to know the same thing. They show me their picture and ask, “What do you think?”

What they really want to know is, “Is this good? Am I an artist? Am I getting any better?”

I look at my own pictures and wonder the same thing.

I tell them, “That’s really good. You are a wonderful artist. I can tell you’re getting better.” Because it’s true. I think it’s true for me, too. I hope so.

I also find something they did well and point it out. They are happy and I’m happy. Sometimes they give me the picture and I hang it up on the fridge. Sometimes I put it away with the schoolwork I’ve saved. Sometimes they keep it or give it to a friend or a teacher.

There are times when they ask and I’m in the middle of a project and I say we’ll paint or sketch later. And sometimes it doesn’t happen later because something else comes up. It’s hard to change focus and pause sometimes. That’s okay, I think, as long as there are the other times where we do spend time together.

I’ve been nurtured and encouraged as an artist, and it’s good to pass that on to other artists. Who better than my children? The beginning of learning anything can be messy, but it can be fun too. As long as I make sure I have time where I can focus without being interrupted, it’s good to be able to paint and draw with my children, too.

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