"All children all are artists. The problem is how to remain an
artist once he grows up."
- Pablo Picasso
It's interesting that I had to have the exact same conversation with Cava today that I had with Benjamin when he was in elementary school.
Earlier in the day yesterday, we went to the library and Cava checked out a book on how to draw birds and butterflies. He started off very excited about drawing birds.
As he made each attempt, he became frustrated and then angry that his bird didn't look exactly like the one in the book.
When I went to calm him down, I was impressed with how good his was and I encouraged him to keep trying.
In the end, no matter how much encouragement I gave him, he crumpled his paper with, "I can't do it!" So I did what I had done with Benjamin, I took three of my art books off the shelf.
One was of the work of Picasso, one was of Matisse's, and one was of Chagall's.
I told him how all three artists lived at the same time, knew each other, and were friends. Then we looked at each artist's work and I asked him, "Does his work look like his friends'?"
"No way!" Cava exclaimed.
"No they don't. And do you now why?"
He shook his head.
"Because each one of them saw the world differently. Each one drew and painted differently. But none of them are wrong because only they could have created what they did. I couldn't have and you couldn't have. And we shouldn't. Do you know why?"
He shook his head again.
"Because God created each of us differently and because of that, we see the world differently. I can't draw the same bird that you draw. And you can't draw the same bird that I draw. But that's great, because then we have two new and unique and different pictures of the same bird. And none of them are wrong."
Out of the three, Cava's favorite was Matisse with his bold use of colors and shapes. He was especially fond of his cut-outs.
Since he loved the cut-outs so much, I asked him, "Would you like to make one of your own?"
Cava was thrilled at the idea.
We got out our construction paper, scissors, and glue sticks and set to creating our own masterpieces. There was only one guideline: you could only use your own imagination to create from. Everything was possible. Nothing was wrong. Be free to create whatever you wanted with whatever shapes and colors you chose.
As soon as all the materials were on the table, Cava set to work. He was drawing and cutting and gluing feverishly. When he was done, he proudly showed me his work, "Look Papa."
"I love it," I told him. "What do you call your picture?"
"Horse Flying In The Sky," he replied and immediately he hung it on the Blackwell Gallery Refrigerator along with his fish and his lady bug.
As I was cutting out my shapes, he would look over at mine and ask, "What's that?"
"Just wait," I told him, "and when I'm done you can tell me what it is."
When I finished my cut-out artwork, I held it up for Cava to look at it and I asked, "Well? What do you think it is?"
"A mommy or papa loving their child," he answered.
"Do you know who inspired my work?"
"Yes, you and Benjamin. Do you know why?"
"Because you love us?"
"Exactly, and because you are two masterpieces in your own right."
Something I have tried to foster in both my kids is their creativity. Benjamin grew up in a home that encouraged him to use his imagination whether through crafts, going to museums, exposing him to different types of art, music, and film, or by taking him to the theater. Now I am doing the same thing with Cava.
To help him, I am trying to provide the tools for him to create with: construction paper, glue, scissors, crayons, markers, paint, and the space to use these in and not worry about the mess he's making. When we studied good insects, I let him borrow my camera so he could go outside and take pictures of the ones he found.
I encourage him to not be bound to other people's examples but to create what he sees and how he sees it. I encourage his curiosity because that will help inspire his creativity (something that was never encouraged or nurtured in him back in Ukraine). The more I allow him to create and encourage his creations, the more his confidence will build. This means I have to keep repeating that only he can draw or paint or create the works that he does. No one else in the world or in the history of the world can create what he creates. His works are totally unique and special.
We also talk about art, whether it's the ones we're working on or the ones we see in books or at museums. I ask him what he thinks, about what he likes or doesn't like about a piece, and to tell me how he would have done a work differently.
All of these will help him not only creatively, but emotionally and psychologically because, by doing so, I'm telling him, "You're important. Your ideas matter. You matter. You are special." Whether or not he turns out to be an artist doesn't matter, what does matter is that he realizes his life is extraordinary. And that is one important lesson to learn!