Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Real Impressionists at Work

Anyone who has ever taken an art class knows one of the most basic of teaching techniques is imitation. To learn how to paint, one copies the methods employed by the masters. Through the dabbing of dots of paint, one learns how technique influences form and how carpal tunnel syndrome existed long before portable computers became ubiquitous. The overarching idea is to gain an appreciation for method while forming one’s own judgments about how to best express one’s own concepts of motion, form, color and mood. “Wrapping a line around one’s think.” Sr. Betty used to say.

In the forming of an actual person’s personality, the approach is much the same. One of the jobs of parenting is to expose children to beauty. When driving, a father or mother must draw attention to the scenic vista, the historical marker or the local color shop that seems iconic to the geographic area one is passing through. The problem however, is that being shown beauty does not always have its intended effect. For instance, if I show my kids a mountain, they want to know if we can go skiing or hiking. If I show my kids a river, “When are we swimming?” or “Can we fish?” pops up. Farms trigger “When do we eat?” and “Can we pick our own?” responses. Animals alongside the road invoke clamors for pets, rides or visits to the local zoo.

With every attempt to enrich our children, the responses are immediate and beyond what was intended, resulting in the adults having to either ratchet back expectations or dim enthusiasm. We took the kids to a museum. The natural consequence “Can we paint?” made me shiver involuntarily. I could see my floor covered with blue spats, at least four outfits worth of laundry, three full baths with hair wash, seventeen muddy watercolors in my future that I must simply adore and possibly frame, and the very real possibility of my kitchen walls receiving the Jackson Pollack treatment. Yet the Mom gene in me always ignores these clarion cries and says “Yes.”

Things were going smoothly until one child decided her arm needed to be purple. This started a trend. I was now the proud parent of a Blue Man Group franchise. If I could have sold tickets to have people stare at my oddly hued offspring as they made caterwauling sounds while playing Wii’s Rock Band, this might have been okay. As it was, two hours of scrubbing later still left me with vaguely tinged children, like easter eggs in that PAAS dye that haven’t been allowed to sit. It was winter so long sleeved shirts and gloves mitigated what might have otherwise been an awkward moment at Sunday mass, though my three year old sported a skin tone that might have been considered jaundice if it hadn’t been so Trix cereal yellow in hue.

Now, the artists in my home seize every moment possible to cut paper, glue things and add little extras to our walls. I should buy stock in Mr. Clean, as he and I are constant companions, scrubbing the walls to erase what would be otherwise permanent murals paying homage to toddlerhood. I had come to an uneasy acceptance of this situation until one daughter brought me to see her art. “It’s you.” She beamed proudly, and I gulped at my moral dilemma. Erase the portrait offered with love or leave a scrawl of pencil and crayon clearly visible first thing when you walk in the house.

Wrapping a think around the lines, I grabbed a paint brush. Sure the work was untouchable before but that was when there wasn’t actual paint involved. Within minutes, I had a white door again and several pleased artists, including the revisionist who was now reveling in her “White period.” However, before they get too carried away with thinking that they can redecorate the house, I think I’ll take them out in the car and maybe point out a mountain or a farm or a river.

It will give my husband a fighting chance to clear out all the crayons.

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