Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kindergarten Chronicles: Art is Subjective

kc_artOne thing Paul and Eric have in common is their love of art. Both boys were drawing and painting before they mastered their pencil grips to form letters. All through first grade Paul’s wonderful teacher let him draw with whatever grip he chose, and he used that clamshell crane grip to create too many masterpieces to frame.
I have been saving Paul’s creations since before he started preschool and now have two full letter-size storage boxes containing his art collection. He used to tape his drawings up until the walls of his room looked like a scene out of A Beautiful Mind — hundreds of pages fluttering up from the corners. During kindergarten, I took them down and stapled them together according to subject. Family pictures, rainbow scenes, dinosaurs, and houses with gardens.

While Paul’s suns all had smiling faces, all of Eric’s drawings had one or more skulls. Eric‘s drawings are action scenes. Sometimes they follow a story line, almost like a cartoon. Sometimes entire wars are battled on a single sheet of paper. With flames covering explosions on top of more flames.
Masterpiece by Paul
Masterpiece by Paul
We go through a lot of paper, but I feel it is important to give kids as many opportunities to be creative as possible. We paint, sculpt with clay, and draw constantly. I am always buying extra sets of markers, pads of paper, and blank notebooks. Drawing is their favorite activity wherever we are. Even after a morning of TV, Eric will rush to draw when the set goes off. After bedtime stories, Paul will stay up reading while Eric draws on a plastic desk on his lap before turning his light out.
I try to save some from each period he goes through. Not everything is frame-worthy, but if it represents Eric’s point of view from that time period, it’s worth it. With Paul’s drawings there were a ton I wish I had framed but am just as happy to have them preserved in our basement for posterity. Sometimes the hardest part about cleaning up is which to save and which to toss. It is not always an easy decision.
Last year Eric gave away a stack of drawings every day at preschool. He filled his friends’ cubbies with drawings, and his favorite teacher was also regular recipient. Mr. R told us how Eric would sit down and the first thing he would reach for was a big thick black marker. Then came the red. Eric loved drawing scary scenes with lots of flames and explosions. At the end of the school year the teacher asked if I wanted Eric’s drawings back. He had saved them and didn’t want to throw them out because they were so wonderful. A collector! This was the same teacher who would go onto compare his year teaching Eric to a year as a guard at San Quentin prison. I said it was okay to recycle them.
This year at our first conference with Eric’s kindergarten teacher she showed us Eric’s self-portrait. She was concerned that his was the only one without a smiling face, but Bill and I were thrilled he did not draw himself with fangs or horns. And fingers for hands without claws—yay Eric!
Masterpiece by Eric
Masterpiece by Eric
Art is one of Eric’s big strengths, and when he feels bad about not reading, I remind him that he will eventually learn to read and write. But not every other kid in his class will be a good artist.
For Eric, who struggles academically, and Paul, who struggles socially, both get confidence from knowing they are talented in art. I am thrilled when my kids tell me they want to be artists when they grow up. Their career choices change constantly; Paul has gone from backhoe driver to paleontologist to Lego designer. Eric wants to be an evil villain or a scientist. No matter what they do for a living, they will always be artists.

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