The problem is staying an artist when you grow up”. Picasso
My siblings and I grew up in a house filled with artists, art and beautiful things. Art was an integral part of our lives as we were growing up and not just in a passive way. My mother flung us into art and art appreciation by making us visit museums, take art lessons and even once, hiring an art teacher to spend the summer with us. This is why it is no surprise we are all lovers of the arts. Be it music, literature, paintings or dance. We were exposed to beautiful things and therefore we seek out beautiful things.
A large part of our summers growing up were spent going from museum to museum, visiting Monet’s garden, building sculptures out of twigs and leaves, and looking at all kinds of art. From what we though incredible to what we didn’t understand, and very loudly (to my mothers dismay) criticised with calls of “that’s not art!” or “that baby in the painting looks demented” to “Did Picasso need glasses?”
We watched our father mix colours and create beautiful art in our home studio. He would be in there before we went to school and still there before we went to bed. My father painted with oil paints, which is what I thought everyone painted with. It was a constant struggle of wills not to touch the paint to see if it was still wet. The paintings would remain malleable for days while the paint dried and often to my dismay paintings would be completely covered by other paintings never to be seen again. My siblings and I grew up surrounded by art.
I learned form a very young age that there is more than one way to express yourself. That when you have a burning need to say something it doesn’t always come out in words. That people make things I think are ugly, but they love them and I understand that. More importantly, I respect that. I learned that ink on paper can give me just as strong a physical reaction as a hug from someone I love. I learned that beautiful music is best listened to really, really loud. I learned to formulate opinions after looking at things from someone else perspective first. I learned that beauty does not equal perfection and in fact it’s the imperfections, the human nature, of art that makes it so much more beautiful.
The easiest way to have children who are engaged with art is to expose them to it. If you see an art gallery or museum go into it and discuss what you see, why they like it or dislike it (and believe me they will be vocal about both). Draw their attention to the beauty in the world around them. A design in a magazine, the architecture of a building, the subtle colours in a flower petal or even a poem or verse you like. If you have books about art make them accessible to them.
Set up an art area in the house.Provide tools for the children, traditional and non traditional, everything from brushes and paint to scraps of materials, beads to toilet rolls (oh the things you can do with toilet rolls!) or leaves and flowers and twigs.
Then, and this is the most important part, step back. Resist the urge to help or correct or give suggestions. Have no expectations of what they are meant to be making.
Finally, don’t have opinions without explanations. One of the worse things you can say to your child is “Good job!”. Its superficial, repetitive and insincere. Replace it with a well thought out opinion such as “I really like the shade of blue you used” Or better yet a question “What do you like the most about this?”.
Exposing your children to art and beauty breeds tolerance, confidence and an insatiable curiosity. Now who doesn’t want that for their child?