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February 26, 2024

Learning About Creation

By Sand Pilarski

My six-year-old granddaughter's artwork continues to amaze and inspire me. And to teach me something about creativity.

Lillian presented me with this picture of a jack o' lantern yesterday. She's almost always proud of her drawings, or at least enjoys doing them, but this one she knew was good.

I was struck by the sheer raw power of it. It arrests. It draws one's eye around and around. It makes me wonder just exactly how this little artist sees the world around her.

And then, after she had brought me this gem, delighted that I told her I was going to scan it in for posterity. She went back to drawing.

Lillian comes to me regularly when she's here to beg paper for drawing; that's why we keep a case of copy paper in the garage, because although she always asks for "a piece" of paper, I hand her anywhere from five to twenty sheets. She uses them up, one after another. A few minutes after she did the jack o' lantern, she presented me with a vivid picture of Molly the Macaw.

It's a cheerful picture, in spite of the numerous times that blasted bird has bitten her. "This is Molly," Lillian told me, "but not in a cage -- in the jungle."

The white surrounding the parrot's eye, the scarlet and blue, the mix of colors in the tail ... impressive.

Every couple minutes for about an hour, Lil brought me picture after picture. Some of them were small, some filled the paper. The set of markers her parents bought her seems to have taken her fancy as a medium. I suppose that I can see that; like the markers, Lil is a loud, intense, immediate presence in the world. No shrinking violet this one.

"Why don't you draw Molly flapping her wings?" her father asked her. It was inspiration enough, and she promptly got another sheet of paper and started, just like that. In short order, she brought the next one for me to see.

It's a very good representation of the macaw flapping, her wings moving so fast they blur. Again, I was impressed by Lil's willingness to attempt a subject she'd never done before ... and by her decision to include her own thought in the picture: Molly has a bow in her "hair."

Why am I so taken with a child's scribbles? Well that's really what this essay is supposed to be about, but I'm having a hard time ... saying the words that describe what undermines the creativity in so many people's hands. For some of us, there's a thing that goes on that is NOT good -- a wall that flies up, a heavy, ugly blanket of impending failure that denies us, an embarrassment that we will never sound as good singing as the voice on the radio, never put words together that people will marvel at as they do at Shakespeare, never achieve the color and balance of Van Gogh.

Lillian, on the other hand, just DOES her art. She loves the praise she gets for it, but it's not WHY she does it. She is just as likely to draw and draw and draw by herself, and when done, cheerfully bundle up the used paper and stuff it all unceremoniously into the recycle bin. The closest I've come to that is playing with lines and colors in the computer Paint program. All one has to do is shut down the computer, and the evidence of playful artwork is gone. It says rather a lot about my artwork, doesn't it? Somehow I've internalized a little shadow voice that I can hear say, "Don't waste paper! Don't waste your talent with scribbling! Come on, do it right or don't do it at all!" I think too many people carry those shadow commands with them. In fact, I wish I had five dollars for every time in my life I've heard someone say, "Oh, I could never do that!"

During that evening, Lil brought me picture after picture, asking if I was going to scan them all. "No, just some," I told her, and she wasn't too disappointed.

However, when I picked up the pictures from my desk for scanning the next morning, I found that she had slipped a fourth one in on the bottom. And this one is what prompted this post.

From colorful portraits of Molly, Lil had switched to pencil, and then back to markers with no hesitation. I know this drawing has a story that Lillian was telling to herself while she drew; there is a man-macaw in a sober hat, and a lady macaw with a fancy hat and lipstick. I believe that their egg is behind them.

The woman/girl behind them has one long-lashed eye -- there may not have been room for two, but that wasn't important. She does have lipstick, also.

All three figures are in motion; they're not just standing there.

Creativity should be in motion, too, not just huddled in a drawer waiting pathetically for reincarnation in some new life. Whether it's writing, or drawing, or singing, it should be being done. Experiments should blow up the laboratory, over and over. Strange creatures ought to have the chance to see the light of day. Words should be sounded out, set in patterns to bring new thoughts to life, to freshen old thoughts to fit the world like new garments. I would not even say, "Moving forward" -- moving backward to more primitive modes of creation could be good, too. Two of Lillian's kindergarten fingerpaints are formally framed in my living room, the focal point of color and tone for the room.

One day, I suspect, Lillian will succumb to the yammer of the popular media, and think that her exuberant art has no value in the world. I hope not. I wish that all who feel even the slightest urge of creativity could be inspired to run with it, to fling themselves onto the many kinds of canvases in the world.

What a world that could be.

And if I learn from what the six-year-old has brought to my desk and to my notice, well, I guess my own creativity should be in motion. Lillian is teaching me to ... move!

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-10-20
1 Reader Comments
GuardianOfTheFronds
09/27/2009
03:17:12 PM
I don't know if anyone will even see this comment now, but I loved this article so much I'm going to save it somewhere. This poor old world could use a lot more "scribbling".
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