“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” – Ryunosuke Satoro
In my last blog post I mentioned a collaborative painting activity that I had begun with the preschoolers that I babysit. I said that I would share our results in this next blog post. So….here it is! Appropriately titled Sunshine, Love, and Happiness. This painting was an incredible and successful collaboration as well as a learning activity for all of us. It is full of sunshine, love, and happiness and puts a smile on my face every time I look at it. Currently its hanging in the playroom so we all see it throughout our day. According to Webster dictionary collaborate has a simple definition; to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.
“Art is the most intense form of individualism that the world has known” Oscar Wilde
Collaborating in art can be fun, but if you can’t let go of your individualism it won’t go smoothly or be enjoyable for those involved. Ive been involved in many art collaborations with children in the past, but those kid art collaborations were a lot more adult controlled with a planned outcome. There is really no place for ego/individualism in the type of project we undertook. The result was really up to all parties and certainly not planned out. The only known factor was that we would end with a painted canvas.
“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” Picasso
The process was layers and layers of paint, probably 12 or 15 in all. I was working with two 2 year olds and one 4 year old. Some of each layer is still visible in the end and its fun to search for those parts that are peaking out and talk with the kids about when they put those on and hear what they thought of particular processes, what they remember from that experience, and what was a favorite. I think you can see handprints are a favorite, they were in an early layer and then in a final layer as well. Since it literally puts a part of them in the painting it seems to help kids connect to their work. They had no problem taking turns so each of them was able contribute equally, and they enjoyed seeing what each person had done. The first 6 layers were each done on separate days. I would introduce them to a fun way to put paint on the canvas, let them pick colors and do whatever they chose. They were pretty excited to use their hands, spray bottles, stampers and the like. Sometimes they would come up with a new way to make marks with that day’s tool. They loved every layer along the way and once dry I would leave the painting down low on their easel so they could touch it and look at it all they wanted. I loved seeing them walk past and then stop to trace over a bit or just run their hand across to feel the paint. I took a turn and added a layer that outlined the flowers and hearts, the layers they did seemed to evoke a playful happy time so hearts and flowers seemed the perfect symbols.The kids knew I was going to be a contributor to the painting, although I have to admit it is probably 75% their work. Its interesting that the 2 year olds were so much more comfortable with my involvement than the 4 year old. I think it showed a level of cognitive development where perhaps an adult being part of the group and actually painting as well didn’t seem balanced to him. The 2 year olds didn’t give it a thought. Is that a glimpse of when our ego starts to compare our work to the work of others?
“Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ’em to play together is the hard part.” – Casey Stengel
In the end the last 3-4 layers were theirs. I learned something about myself at this point….whereas initially I didn’t feel any need to guide their choices or influence them in any way in the last few layers I found myself wanting to reign in the freedom with which they go at their art, to caution them or remind them so they would think ahead, maybe think about what colors someone else used before choosing their own. That was my struggle, I knew I needed to let go and let them have complete freedom, but honestly it was hard. Turns out I just needed to trust them and their energy. These kids don’t have one worry when they put marks down, everything they do is good for the simple fact that they did it. And in my opinion that is another lesson many adults can learn from kids. When we overthink things we lose the flow of the idea or feeling that swept over us, we should just let go and create with wild abandon. Don’t judge your work as good or bad or worry over if it will be good enough. If you don’t like the result keep going until you do! They are open to new ideas that we sometimes miss because we are invested in doing things a certain way or looking for a particular outcome.
“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” -Amy Poehler
I am so glad we did this project, I learned a few things and we all had fun. I’ve had requests to do another. I think they like the idea of using a ‘canvas’ like a ‘real’ artist. Truth is they are real artists, if we only let them be! Since my last post there are many new paintings in my gallery, seven as I recall, I hope you’ll take a minute to pop over and check them out. And please feel free to leave a comment below this post…..there is no wrong comment!
Light, love, and laughter,