Sunday, May 27, 2007


"Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an
artist once he grows up.
-Pablo Picasso
My beloved Uncle Eli collected whales. Plastic toy whales, knitted whales, whales carved from driftwood and bars of soap. As a child, I loved visiting his house and standing before his vast collection, trying to memorize each piece. Each time I did so, the first one I sought out was perhaps the ugliest: an awkardly pieced-together navy polyester "whale", sloppily hand-stiched with white embroidery floss around the edges, and featuring a huge red smile made of buttons. Its stuffing was bumpy and uneven, and on the back, a piece of notebook paper was stitched to the fabric. It read: "To one WHALE of a guy, my Uncle Eli! With love from Stacy". I made it when I was 8 or 9, one summer after my Mom taught me how to embroider. I remember drawing the pattern out on notebook paper over and over until I settled on a whale shape I liked, then cutting out my fabric and stitching it together. I didn't even know enough to stitch it wrong side out and turn it, and so all my raggedy-cut edges were frayed and exposed. I didn't care. I thought it was a masterpiece. I stole stuffing from my pillow and filled up my whale, added the tag on the back, and sent it off in the mail to Kansas.
Several years ago, when my own daughter was 8 or 9, I took her to see Uncle Eli's collection. He'd long since purged most of it - only one small bookcase of whales remained. My eyes darted here and there until I saw it - my crude polyester masterpiece, sitting proudly among the elegant stained glass pieces and elaborately carved wooden whales. It made me smile.
Today, it's my second child - my Aidan - who's the artist. He specializes in "found art", often pulling things out of the recycle bin and the trash can to make something. He draws all the time, and he's quite good. Yesterday was the last day of school, and he came home with the painting you see above. He was so very, very proud of it. Holding it behind his back, he asked, "Mom, what's that guy's name who cut off his own ear because he was very, very sick?"
"Uh, Van Gogh?" I answered.
"Yah!" he exclaimed. "I painted a Van Gogh for you at school. It's called 'Sunflower'." I didn't have to fake my enthusiasm; I was GIDDY with delight. I told him that truly it was the most beautiful painting I'd ever seen, and that I couldn't wait to frame it and hang it in our house. Later, when Grammy came to pick him up, he showed her his masterpiece and I overheard him say, "Mom's gonna frame it and hang it in our house!" I know just where I'll display it, and someday, when Aidan brings his own newly-graduated Kindergartener over, it'll still be there. I hope it makes him smile.
(the challenge:
"Every child is an artist.The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."-Pablo Picasso
Reflect on this quote. What was the first piece of art your created? Were you artistic as a child? Did you love to color? Did you learn any art forms - needle arts, painting, sculpting? Did anyone nurture your creativity? Were you drawn to any specific type of art? Has your child created something that he was proud of? Are you still an artist today? In what way? Do you consider scrapbooking an art? Choose any aspect you like, but incorporate a childhood artist somehow into your story. Dig deep, and have fun discovering your forgotten childhood artist!)


Elaine said...

Van Gogh is my favorite (duh). And you can tell Aidan that before I even read your post today, I was reminded of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" painting when I saw Aidan's rendition of it.

So. There ya go.

Just tell him to take care of his ears.

(My blog name is for Van Gogh, tangentially, actually... There's a Baby Van Gogh video made by the Baby Einstein people, and the host is "Vincent Van Goat." He comes out covered in paint -- and the right ear bandaged -- at the beginning, and Helen used to shout at the TV: "Look! Messygoat! Messygoat!")

Anonymous said...

I love to see children's art work framed and hung on the wall. I have my DD's first recognizable painting in my kitchen right now.

Congratulations to the new artist in the house!! Aiden did an awesome job.

Jill said...

Like Elaine, Van Gogh has always been my favorite, and I TOO thought Sunflowers when I saw the painting. Way to go, Aidan. I've always been a frustrated artist, but neither of my boys seem to have picked up the "artist" gene.

I do have a piece of construction paper artwork of each of the boys framed in my scrapbook room!

Amy said...

I have 2 pieces of art in my livingroom, one is a Michelangelo and the other is done by our oldest, both framed and lovely, of course my favorite, the one my eyes seek the second I enter the room is our sons masterpiece!

Martha in CA said...

I was thinking it looked like a Van Gogh myself! I see the sunflower now, but first I saw a mother and child embracing.


It's beautiful, Stacy! Make sure he autographs it too!

Nesa said...

count me as another Van Gogh lover. Aiden did such a great job, and what a nice trip down memory lane for you as well.

Anonymous said...

When I first saw it I thought it was a painting of Michigan! Except for the lakes where Ohio and Indiana should be, he has the right shape and colors for the rest of our "mitten" state.
I love Van Gogh, he has always been my favorite. Good Job Aidan!
Hang up that picture with pride, it is beautiful.
Kathy in MI