Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Love My Kids’ Artwork! (Now please make it stop…)

I love to create – always have, always will. I am absolutely energized when I take what I consider to be a ‘great’ photo. I write, when I can, in various formats. I once took a drawing class after college, and I have to say (and the instructor agreed) that my stuff was pretty good - at least for a guy that doesn't draw much anymore. When I’m blue, nothing picks me up like having created SOMEthing.

And so, it stands to reason, that I take particular joy in seeing my girls create too. I feel a glow in my heart when I see their little blonde heads bent down over their craft table, cranking away at some coloring, or painting, or just gluing a pile of beads together into what Sylvia calls a ‘sculpt-tour’.

"Skyline (I'm talkin' 'bout)"
Lillian Rose Chesak, 2012
Marker, crayon, acrylic paint, 
construction paper, white office paper
Thankfully for me, they love it too. They beg for art classes and camps, run up to me with eyes aglow to show off their latest creation, and ask for craft kits for holiday gifts.

And then, every once in a while, they have the time, materials, and focus to suddenly produce something that even takes me aback a little – something quite seriously really very ‘good’. There in my hands, created by my daughter, will suddenly be a thoughtful cityscape of detailed buildings with rows of lit windows, silhouetted against a multi-hued dusky sky, or a funky, honest owl splashed with equal genius of both subtle colors and riotous shapes.

Sometimes it, very literally, brings a tear to my eye.

But, among all this creative beauty, there is… a dark side [cue ominous organ music]…

The output of artworks by the average American kid is substantial. They are fortunate enough to live in a place there is generally a steady supply of paper, scissors, glue, pens, paints, markers, beads, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and whatever else they can get their ink-stained hands on to produce copious works of art.

Each weeklong art camp they go to produces a good dozen works per kid. Every school day is three to five more, per kid.  Each holiday means two small deluges of themed artwork. Every moment spent coloring, cutting, pasting, and generally creating means more and more sheets, mobiles, Fuze-Beads, pot-holders, picture frames, god’s eyes, Valentines, water colors, finger paintings, paper dolls, sculptures, and more.

I appreciate each and every one, truly, as they are all special and amazing to me. Each one is truly a minor miracle, a wonder that my kid was able to pick up a crayon and color within the lines, or mix those particular hues, or string all those beads onto that shoelace. And yet, actually dealing with it all is yet another task to squeeze into the day.

"A Guy"
Lillian Rose Chesak, 2012
Tinfoil, bronze paint, wood block,
'and this stuff we put on it'
For every amazing work they produce, they produce another 50 or so that are great, in their own way, but… maybe not worth scanning and posting for the in-laws to see, or hanging on the fridge, or taping to the sliding glass door. So, you pitch much of it into the recycling bin, generally late at night when there are no little eyeballs to catch you. (Because, if they do catch you, there’s a little hell to pay. “Daddy, why is my dinosaur picture in the trash!?!?” Damn. Busted…)

And as you run about during your usual day of work, housework, trying to get to the gym, etc. The artwork piles up, and piles up, and piles up, until you find yourself with yet another task to accomplish; ‘Oh man, I’ve GOT to sort through the kids’ art!’

I do have a rather unique solution to some of the artwork challenges. Rather than just taking all the ‘good stuff’ (the pieces worth keeping) and filing them away where no one can see them, I actually hang them up in the garage. Half the walls in our garage are a mosaic of several years’ of kids’ artwork, all tacked up on bare drywall, layering each other. There are construction paper kites and butterflies on the ceiling, brass hinged dinosaurs trampling through princess watercolors, various paper dolls running through drawings of our house, which themselves cover the crinkling corners of larger format paintings.

It’s great fun to see in its entirety, and it spruces up some otherwise plain walls in an otherwise dull space.

And yet, preserving all this is time and work. Currently the ‘to hang’ pile on a garage cabinet is about three feet wide, by a foot deep, and nearly a foot high (high enough that to add anything to the mound I have to carefully balance a new piece on the very center of the top, unless it slides off and onto the floor below).

Sylvia Ann Chesak, 2012
Water color paints, marker, pencil, 
white office paper
Like most parenting, it’s both blessing and curse: you love each single work and each one can make you nearly burst with pride, yet the deluge is just ‘One – More – Thing’ to have to deal with.

Still, all the scanning, the stapling in the garage, the hanging and un-hanging of Halloween ghosts and Leprechauns, and the subversive middle-of-the-night recycling is worth it to preserve all these various records of their artistic development.

Every time I look at their collective works that are scattered across the garage walls and ceiling, I marvel at their productivity, development, and passion. They are just little tempests of spontaneous, pure creation.

And if that makes me the guy that cleans up after these two magnificent little storms of uninhibited, unbridled, unrestrained creativity, then so be it. It’s a role I relish.

(Even if I don’t always relish having to sort that huge pile of artwork in the garage…)